Mammogram – Types & Procedure

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Mammograms are a screening and diagnostic tool used to diagnose breast cancer using a low-dose x-ray. Breast cancer affects individuals assigned to females at birth, aside from skin cancer. Early diagnosis using mammograms has a significant impact on the survival rate of individuals affected by breast cancer.

There are two types of mammograms:

  • Screening Mammogram: This mammogram is used to diagnose early signs of breast cancer before there are any symptoms, as even a tumour that cannot be felt can be detected by this. Usually, two x-rays of each breast are taken.  This is known as a screening mammogram. 
  • Diagnostic Mammogram: It is also used to find any abnormalities when an individual develops a symptom like pain, nipple discharge, breast skin changes or a lump. This is known as a diagnostic mammogram. It is also done to evaluate the abnormalities seen in a screening mammogram. 

How to prepare for a mammogram?

These are the few things to keep in mind before getting a mammogram. 

  • Try not to schedule the mammogram one week before and during menstruation as the breasts might be tender, and it might make the procedure feel more uncomfortable.
  • If one has breast implants or is recently vaccinated, it is important to let the doctor know.
  • If an individual is pregnant or breastfeeding, it is important to let the doctor know as they might recommend a breast ultrasound instead of a mammogram. 
  • On the day of the mammogram, do not wear lotion, powder, perfume, or deodorant, as this might interfere with the precision of the x-ray. 
  • It is recommended for individuals to wear a top and bottom separately instead of wearing a dress, as one has to undress from the waist up before the mammogram. 

What happens during a mammogram?

Just before the mammogram the individual is asked to remove any neck jewelry and clothing from waist up and they are given a gown. 

During the procedure, the individual will be made to stand in front of an X-ray machine. This x-ray machine is specially designed for mammography. A healthcare member will then place one of the breasts on a platform and adjust the height of the platform according to the individual’s height. The head, arms and torso are placed in such a way that they don’t interfere with the view of the breast. 

By a clear plastic plate, the breast is gradually pressed against the platform. The pressure is kept for a few seconds to evenly spread out the breast tissue. This allows the X-ray to penetrate through the breast tissue. The pressure might cause a little discomfort, but it is not harmful.  It is better to inform the healthcare member if the pressure is too much. Pressure is applied so that the breast is held in place and there is no blurring because of the movement. This also reduces the amount of radiation needed. During this time, the individual will be asked to remain still and hold their breath. 

The individual might be asked to wait till the technician confirms the quality of the images. If the image is not up to the mark, they might ask to repeat the procedure. 

A mammogram usually takes less than 30 minutes, after which one can resume their daily activities.  

Risks of mammogram

It is better to keep track of the X-rays that the individual has had in the past as this might avoid the risk related to radiation exposure. It is also a good idea to ask the healthcare provider for the amount of radiation used during the procedure. One should definitely notify the healthcare person if the individual is pregnant, as the radiation might lead to birth defects. If it is absolutely necessary for the pregnant person to get a mammogram, special precautions will be taken to lessen the radiation exposure. 

Even though the pressure felt during the mammogram is not damaging, it is always better to tell the healthcare professional if there is too much pain or discomfort. 


Mammograms are produced by mammography, it is the black and white image of the breast tissue which appears on a computer screen. The radiologist then examines the images, looking for evidence of cancer and other related conditions that might require further testing or treatment. Mammograms are really beneficial for the early detection of breast cancer. 


1. What are the advantages of a mammogram?

Detecting breast cancer in its early stages reduces the risk of dying from it by 25-30%. It is recommended for women to get mammograms every year from the age of 40 or even earlier if they’re at high risk. 


The Information including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are intended for education and awareness only. No material on this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help including diagnosis or treatment. It is always advisable to consult medical professional before relying on the content. Neither the Author nor Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd accepts any responsibility for any potential risk to any visitor/reader.

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