Fact Checked

What Happens at a Woman's First Mammogram?

Christina Edwards
Christina Edwards

Before a woman's first mammogram, a doctor will usually advise her not to wear any type of deodorant or jewelry. During the mammogram, a woman is asked to remove all clothing above the waist. A technician will then position her breast on the special x-ray equipment, and she may feel some pressure or discomfort as the machine compresses her breast. During a routine mammogram, there are usually four pictures taken, but more pictures may be taken during a woman's first mammogram.

When a woman gets her first mammogram, her doctor will typically give her a few special instructions. Deodorants and perfumes are not advised because they may contain ingredients that can cause the images to project false signs of breast cancer. Like deodorant and lotions, jewelry can cause problems with the x-ray images. Necklaces, nipple jewelry, and sometimes even earrings may need to be removed before this procedure.

Wearing deodorant during a mammogram can cause inaccurate results.
Wearing deodorant during a mammogram can cause inaccurate results.

As a woman is waiting to get her first mammogram, an x-ray technician will often ask her several questions. She may need to confirm her name as well as her doctor's name. She will also be asked about her general state of health, including whether she is possibly pregnant or if she has any lumps in her breasts. The technician may also ask if she has breast implants.

Jewelry should be avoided during a mammogram.
Jewelry should be avoided during a mammogram.

One uncomfortable part of a woman's first mammogram involves undressing. This is usually done in a waiting room or dressing room just before the procedure. Any clothing from the waist up must be removed. An x-ray technician will then give a woman a thin hospital gown to wear instead.

Just before the procedure begins, the technician will prepare the woman's breast. This usually involves placing stickers on the woman's nipples and sometimes on any moles that are on the breast. These stickers contain metal balls, which make it easier for these areas to show up in the x-rays.

Another possibly uncomfortable part of a first mammogram usually occurs when the woman's breast is placed into the x-ray machine. This is usually done by the x-ray technician. While this is not usually physically uncomfortable, it can be embarrassing or even humiliating for some women.

The most physically uncomfortable part of a woman's first mammogram usually occurs when the images are being taken. During this time, the machine compresses the breast slightly. The breast is compressed from top to bottom and side to side, which allows the x-ray to capture internal images of the breast better. For some women, this can be painful. Others claim that there is nothing but a mild discomfort.

Two images of each breast are usually captured during a routine mammogram. Technicians may need to capture more images, however, if it is a woman's first mammogram. Additional images may also be needed if a woman has breast implants or if her doctor orders more than four images. This will typically happen when a woman is experiencing breast cancer symptoms.

Even if a woman of a certain age does not exhibit any symptoms of breast cancer, it is still recommended that she gets a mammogram once a year. Typically, the average age for a first mammogram is 40 years old. Women with a family history of breast cancer, however, should get their first screening mammogram at 35 years of age.

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Discussion Comments


@Scrbblchick -- Your "pet lump." Good one. Pays to keep a sense of humor. Glad it was nothing.

Actually, at the hospital where I have my mammograms, women don't have to wear a thin little gown. When we undress, we have a nice, comfy, clean terrycloth robe to wear and we wear that into the mammogram lab.

They really do their best to make us comfortable. There are comfortable places to sit, a TV and they even provide spray deodorant to put on after the exam.

In the area where we wait to get the all-clear, they have coffee, sodas, snacks, a TV and magazines. It's very nice.


My first mammogram was way fun. I have some fibrocystic disease in my breasts (hereditary), and when I've been drinking too much caffeine, I'll have a little pea-sized lump raise up on my right breast. I stop caffeine, lump disappears.

Since the radiologist hadn't seen my results before, he asked for more films on my right breast. I knew sure as the world what it was. I asked the technician if he wanted more views of this particular spot and she said yes. I was actually relieved -- I knew it had to be my pet lump, and so it was. Still, it was nerve-wracking waiting to get the all-clear. That's the worst part anyway. It's always a tremendous relief when the nurse comes by and says you're free to go, that all is well.

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    • Wearing deodorant during a mammogram can cause inaccurate results.
      By: Dmitry Vereshchagin
      Wearing deodorant during a mammogram can cause inaccurate results.
    • Jewelry should be avoided during a mammogram.
      By: Monkey Business
      Jewelry should be avoided during a mammogram.