What You Should Expect During Your First Mammogram

nurse with her arm around a patient getting ready for mammogram

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I am 43 years old and today, I had my first mammogram. It was nothing like I imagined it would be, so I figured I would share my experience with those of you that have your first mammogram coming up.

The CDC describes a mammogram as an X-ray picture of the breast. Doctors use a mammogram to look for early signs of breast cancer. Regular mammograms are the best tests doctors have to find breast cancer early, sometimes up to three years before it can be felt.

Growing up, I remember driving by a shopping plaza and thinking that the outside sign said “Breast Squeezing”. So when my Mom told me she was going there, I asked her if she was going to get her breasts squeezed. She said while that was pretty much what happens, the sign actually said “Breast Screening.” I still call it breast squeezing to this day.

For years, I would ask about getting a mammogram when I went to my gynecologist. At 30, I was told to wait until I was 35. At 35, they told me to wait until I was 40. At 40, I was told that it wasn’t necessary if I didn’t have any pain or discomfort and didn’t have a family history of breast cancer in my immediate family (mother or grandmother).

So, while I watched my friends and family go for their annual mammograms for over ten years, I continued to wait and hoped that I was doing the right thing.

At my last annual well-woman appointment in May of this year, my gynecologist recommended that I schedule a mammogram every two years until I turn 50, at which point I should go every year.

I scheduled my first mammogram for 8 weeks after my second Covid vaccine. The CDC recommends that you wait 6-8 weeks after your second vaccine. It has something to do with possible inflammation in your lymph nodes I believe.

I arrived a few minutes early for my appointment and waited patiently for them to call me back. I was eventually led into a small changing room where I was told to remove my bra and top and put on a gown with the opening in the front. She also asked that I use a wipe to remove my deodorant.

mammogram machine

Once I was undressed, I walked into the room with the mammogram machine. She positioned me in front and I told her that this was my first mammogram. She assured me that it would be quick and painless.

She asked me to remove the left side of my gown and hold onto the machine. She then told me to look toward the right (there was a wreath with seashells). She then lifted my left breast onto the machine and positioned me so that the plastic part was directly above my breast and my armpit was resting on the machine (hence why you need to remove your deodorant).

She stepped back to the computer area, pressed a button and the plastic part lowered, to press my left breast so that the machine could take a number of X-rays. Once that was complete (less than a minute later), she repositioned me to do the same thing on the right side.

demonstration of what happens during a mammogram

Once I was done, she had me put my gown back on and return to the changing room to get dressed. I dropped my gown in the provided laundry bin and on the way out, she handed me a piece of paper with instructions on how to access my results, which would be arriving via email within 24-48 hours. That time may vary, depending on your doctor’s office.

About 24 hours later, I received an email, letting me know that my mammogram results were negative. It was a relief to know that I have nothing to worry about and recommend that everyone do their screenings as soon as their doctor recommends.

Tips for Your First Mammogram

  • Try not to schedule your mammogram the week before you get your period or during your period. Your breasts may be tender or swollen then.
  • On the day of your mammogram, don’t wear deodorant, perfume, or powder as they can show up as white spots on the X-ray.
  • Wear a top and bottom, instead of a dress since you will need to undress from your waist up for the mammogram.

If you have any questions about my first mammogram, feel free to leave them below or send me a quick message. I’m more than happy to answer what I can!

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I am sharing my personal experience of my first mammogram visit, along with tips of what to do, so that you will know what to expect.
I am sharing my personal experience of my first mammogram visit, along with tips of what to do, so that you will know what to expect.

 

 

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Hello There!

I'm so honored that you've found us! I'm Heather, a Mom of 3 who blogs about parenting, food, occasional travel and how I overcame my daily struggle with anxiety. I miss sleeping and rely on coffee and laughter to get me through the day. I hope you enjoy and visit often!

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  1. I just had my first. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought! Great points to remember. They didn’t tell me not to wear deodorant and I am glad that my friend told me!

  2. This is a must test for women in their 40s specially when they have a family background of having cancer in the reproductive organs.

    Thank you for sharing the experience!

  3. I believe that posts like this are very helpful. When one has to go for an unfamiliar procedure or test they can be very anxiety-ridden.

  4. I have never thought about it but looks like I need to discuss it with my doctor as I am 30+ now! Thanks for sharing your experience with us. I’ll surely keep these tips in mind 🙂

  5. I’m going to have my annual checkup next month and I’m going to talk about having a mammogram with my doctor. Thanks for the tips!

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  6. I always wondered about how mammograms went. Thanks for this. Now I know what will happen when I have my mammogram in the future.

  7. Some of my friends had their mammograms already but I haven’t. Thank you for sharing your experience!

  8. We had a mammogram van come to our job, which was convenient and we could get it done for free. The thing they didn’t tell us though was that we needed a referral from our doctor to be there. Ugh. So I didn’t get one and have yet to do so. I really want to do it though and appreciate the insight offered here.

  9. I didn’t know a single thing about mammograms until now and definitely learned a lot from this. Thanks for sharing this informative post with us.

  10. This is a helpful guide for women going to get their first mammogram. I am an old pro by now but I still have to remember not to wear deodorant on the day of! Great tips!

  11. It’s such a stressful moment but so important too. Thank you for sharing your experiences and encouraging women to go.

  12. I’m so glad you wrote this up. I know I don’t need one for years yet, but I’ve always been nervous about this. It doesn’t seem so bad though.

  13. I just went for my first mammogram this year and ended up needing a few other tests. Just this week I had a biopsy and I am recovering from it. I urge women to go for a mammogram as soon as possible. Talk to your doctor.

  14. This is good information to have! It can be stressful for women to go into this blindly, it helps to have some inside info before going through this for the first time.

  15. Brilliant post! A great way to help people overcome any anxiety and explain exactly what will happen on the day. Good on you for writing this x

  16. I didn’t know about mammograms and today, I learnt something new from your post. Thanks for sharing.

  17. This process seems really painful, is it? Thanks for sharing your experience and for the tips, of course.

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  18. Thanks for the heads up, if I would have my first time doing it, I might shake a little or more hahaha

  19. The tip about not arranging near a period is a good one to remember. I’ve not had a mammogram yet so might need to chase that up as could probably do with one.

  20. I had a mammogram some years ago and it wasn’t a pleasant experience for me. It’s a good idea to be prepared before you go and these advice can help.

  21. Thanks for sharing this with us! I have not had one, but it makes me nervous thinking about it. Thank you for putting me at ease!

  22. This was so helpful to read! I just turned 40 and haven’t scheduled mine yet. I don’t have any family history of breast cancer thank God, but I know it’s important to get it done. I didn’t know that about deodorant or perfume showing up as white spots!

  23. I love how health conscious you are, that even though the process seems painful you still asked if you should do it.

  24. Thank you for this info. I admit, I’m scared for my first mammogram and it will be in the next year or so. Your info helps me be more prepared.

  25. I had a mammogram a few years back and got negative results. For me, it was not a pleasant experience. Most Asians have small breasts and it was difficult to position myself onto that machine. I can so much relate to the “breast squeezing” you mentioned. Haha.

  26. It is important to get your mammograms based on family history and age. Although I would never say it is fun, mammograms are an easy way to stay on top of your health.

  27. Thank you for your comprehensive post. I have done my very first mammogram and was nervous when I did it but your explanation is very clear for first timers. Great tips too regarding clothing and not to wear deodorant/perfume.

  28. I’m so glad I came across this. I’ll be having my first mammogram soon, and I’ve been wondering about what it would be like.

  29. This is so useful. I believe in the UK we get offered them at 50? I will have to find out. It sounds quick and easy and I am glad it was all negative.

  30. I didn’t realize that deodorant and things like that could show up on an X-ray! I think this is a super helpful post.

  31. I will keep this in mind. I will be getting one next year when I’m 40 to be on the safe side. If the military doctors say I should. Lord. You never know with them. But I’ll try at 40 because I know it’s important.

  32. The best options out there for preventative care and early detection of breast cancer. I am over due for one myself.

  33. This is so helpful for women who are new to the procedure. I have had many mammograms and even needed a biopsy once. thankfully all is well but prevention is always smart.

  34. I heard from friends that a mammogram can be painful. Even so, it’s advisable because early breast cancer detection means a higher chance of survival.

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