What you can expect

By Mayo Clinic Staff

During the test

At the testing facility, you're given a gown and asked to remove neck jewelry and clothing from the waist up. To make this easier, wear a two-piece outfit that day.

For the procedure itself, you stand in front of an X-ray machine specially designed for mammography. The technician places one of your breasts on a platform and raises or lowers the platform to match your height. The technician helps you position your head, arms and torso to allow an unobstructed view of your breast.

Your breast is gradually pressed against the platform by a clear plastic plate. Pressure is applied for a few seconds to spread out the breast tissue. The pressure isn't harmful, but you may find it uncomfortable or even painful. If you have too much discomfort, tell the technician.

Your breast must be compressed to even out its thickness and permit the X-rays to penetrate the breast tissue. The pressure also holds your breast still to decrease blurring from movement and minimizes the dose of radiation needed. During the brief X-ray exposure, you'll be asked to stand still and hold your breath.

After the test

After images are made of both your breasts, you may be asked to wait while the technician checks the quality of the images. If the views are inadequate for technical reasons, you may have to repeat part of the test. The entire procedure usually takes less than 30 minutes. Afterward, you may dress and resume normal activity.

In the United State, federal law requires mammogram facilities to send your results within 30 days, but you can usually expect to receive your results sooner. Ask the technician what you can expect.

Aug. 20, 2013