OSF Saint Francis Medical Center

Peoria, Illinois

My First Mammogram

If you have scheduled your very first mammogram you are taking a very important step in a lifetime of breast health.  The first mammogram is considered a baseline image which allows radiologists to compare and interpret slight changes from year to year that may indicate a very early cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society breast cancer annual screening mammograms should begin at age 40 or even earlier if a woman is at greater risk for developing breast cancer. The greatest indicator being a family history of breast cancer. If your relative was diagnosed with breast cancer, you should begin screenings 10 years earlier than the age at which your relative was diagnosed. (for example, if your grandmother was diagnosed at age 40, then you should begin screenings at age 30.) Talk to you doctor about where your risk levels stand. Below is some helpful information on what to expect and you can also go to frequently asked questions

Hear a First Hand Experience from These Women

A group of women were interviewed before and after their very first mammogram.  Watch this video to follow their first mammogram experience. 

Questions You Will Be Asked Prior To Your Examination 

Are you pregnant? If no, then know the date of your last menstrual period or if you've had a hysterectomy.  If yes, please let us know before your appointment date. Mammography is not recommended during pregnancy.

Are you having any problems with your breasts?  If yes, please let us know before your appointment date.  We may schedule a different test for you.  It's very important to let the technologist know if you've discovered a lump, have pain, skin changes, discharge from the nipple or any thing else you have noticed that is unusual. 

Have you had any hormonal changes such as menopause or had your ovaries removed?  The technologist will need to know if you are currently taking hormone replacement (estrogen) therapy (HRT).

Do you have a relative that has breast cancer?  If so, what age was your relative at the time the cancer was diagnosed?

In your medical history have you had Atypical Ductal Hyperplasia or Ovarian Cancer?  If yes, what year? And what treatment was given?

Have you had any surgery on your breasts?  If yes, what year was the surgery performed?  What was the diagnosis given to you?

Have you ever been treated for breast cancer?  If yes, have you ever had Chemotherapy or Radiation as part of your treatment?

Do you have breast implants?  If yes, what type of implants and when was the surgery?

What to expect during a mammogram

Generally, a mammogram follows this process:

  1. You will be asked to remove any clothing, jewelry, or other objects that might interfere with the procedure, only from your waist up.
  2. You will wear a gown.
  3. You will stand in front of a mammography machine and the technologist will gently position one breast on the x-ray plate for optimal positioning.
  4. A separate flat plate, often made of plastic, will be brought down on top of the breast to compress it gently against the x-ray plate. Compression of the breast is required in order to minimize the amount of radiation used and to ensure clear pictures of the breast tissue. You may feel some discomfort during this time but it should not be painful.  Your mammography technologist will use all possible comfort measures and complete the procedure as quickly as possible.
  5. You will be asked to hold your breath while the image is being taken.
  6. The mammography technologist will step behind a protective window while the image is taken.
  7. Two pictures at different angles will be taken of each breast, requiring the breasts to be repositioned between pictures.
  8. After the x-rays have been taken, you will be asked to wait while the films are examined by the technologist to ensure that the images are of acceptable quality for review by the radiologist.