How to prepare for a mammogram

A mammogram is an X-ray of your breasts used for breast cancer screening or diagnosis. Mammograms are recommended every two years for women 50 to 74 years old at average risk of breast cancer. Mammograms can be recommended earlier and more often for women at higher risk.  

If your healthcare provider has recommended a mammogram for you, there are a few steps you might want to take when preparing for a mammogram. While these are some items to think about, always follow any additional instructions given by your healthcare provider since they are most familiar with your needs and history. 

1. Schedule your test the week after your menstrual cycle 

Hormonal fluctuations related to your menstrual cycle can cause tender breasts and other breast changes. Consider scheduling your mammogram the week after your period for a more comfortable experience.  

2. Bring any prior mammogram images 

If you have not been to this healthcare provider before, check ahead of time to determine how they would like to get prior mammogram images and reports. This is important to make year-to-year comparisons. Your previous facility might be able to send the medical records before your exam.  

 Also, consider bringing a list of your relevant medical history, dates of previous mammograms, breast biopsies or other procedures you have had.  

3. Don’t use deodorant before your exam 

When preparing for a mammogram, be aware that deodorant or other lotions can interfere with the images taken during the exam and should be avoided. If you forget, some facilities may offer towelettes that you can use to wipe off any lotion or deodorant before your test. 

4. Wear comfortable shoes and dress accordingly  

Consider what you are wearing in preparation for your mammogram. You must stand during the exam, so be sure you have comfortable, supportive shoes.  

Avoid dresses or jumpsuits, which you must remove completely for the exam. Instead, opt for pants or a skirt with a separate top, allowing you to remove only your shirt and bra. 

Mammogram preparation FAQs 

These are a few common questions you might have about how to prepare for a mammogram. 

Should I shower before a mammogram? 

Yes, you can shower before your mammogram; avoid using any lotions or deodorant afterward. 

Can I shave before a mammogram? 

Yes, you can shave before your mammogram.  

What should I not do before a mammogram? 

A few things to avoid when preparing for your mammogram may include: 

  • Applying deodorant or lotion to the breast or underarm area. 
  • Wearing a one-piece outfit or dress. 
  • Getting the exam right before your period. 
  • Consuming caffeine, which can increase breast pain. 

Don’t delay scheduling your mammogram 

Breast cancer is the second-most-common cancer in the United States and the most common cancer for women. There were more than 260,000 breast cancer cases in the United States in 2019. Connecticut and Washington, D.C., have the largest incidence of breast cancer in the U.S.  

A routine mammogram can help identify cancerous changes early or help with diagnostics if there is a concern. If you are due for your regular mammogram, it is important to schedule it on time. Speak to your primary healthcare provider about mammograms and how to prepare for them.