Mammograms matter

When should you get a mammogram?

Experts don’t agree on when to start having mammograms. Some suggest a woman should start getting them at age 40, while others advise that she start at age 50. Providence Health Plan suggests that you talk to your doctor at age 40 about what is right for you based on your family history. We also recommend that all women start having screening mammograms by age 50.

What is the difference between a screening mammogram and a diagnostic mammogram?

A screening mammogram can be used to check for breast cancer in women who have no signs or symptoms of the disease.

A diagnostic mammogram is for women who are having a problem such as a lump or unusual nipple discharge or pain. More pictures are taken than with a screening mammogram.

When I get my mammogram, what will they look for?

For women who have no symptoms, the doctor (radiologist) and technician will use mammography to look for any abnormalities in your breast. For women who do have symptoms, the doctor and technician will look at the breast to try to detect any suspicious breast tissue. If they locate an abnormality, they’ll remove from that area of the breast a small piece of tissue, which will be sent to a lab for evaluation (called a biopsy).

How should I prepare for my mammogram?

  • Take a shower or bath before the mammogram. Do not apply deodorant, powder, lotion or perfume prior to the test.
  • Wear a two-piece outfit, as you will need to remove your blouse, shirt or sweater and don a hospital gown for the test.
  • Do not wear jewelry around your neck.

Where can I get a mammogram?

You have options. You can:

  • Talk to your doctor about where to get a mammogram. Today, mammography is done in a variety of medical settings.
  • Request an appointment if you live in the Portland and surrounding areas.