Health A-Z

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How It's Done

Mammograms almost always are done in an outpatient X-ray facility or in the X-ray department of a hospital.

If you have breast implants, tell the X-ray personnel about them when you arrive for mammography, since having breast implants affects the way your mammogram will be performed and analyzed. During mammography, a breast with implants must be compressed with special care to prevent the implants from rupturing. The breast also must be positioned differently for the X-ray.

When you arrive at the X-ray facility, you will be asked to remove your clothing from the waist up, including neck jewelry, and you will be given a hospital gown to wear during the test. Each of your breasts will be X-rayed separately, and you will be asked to hold your breath for a few seconds while each X-ray is taken. For some X-ray views, your breast will be compressed briefly between two plastic plates. Compressing the breast spreads out the breast tissue and provides a clearer image of the thicker areas of your breast. Depending on the size of your breasts and how sensitive they are, you may feel some mild discomfort during this part of your mammogram, but it should not be painful. When all the X-rays are complete, you can get dressed again. In some centers, you may be asked to wait until your mammogram films are developed in case a view is not clear and needs to be repeated.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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