Mammogram Guidelines

July 2016

What to expect from your first mammogram.

Current mammogram guidelines suggest scheduling your first appointment after you turn 40.

Mammography can save lives. While it isn’t a perfect tool, its detection capabilities are responsible for reducing breast cancer mortality by 1/3 in the US since 1990. With frequent changes to mammogram guidelines, it can be hard to know when to schedule your first screening and what to expect during the appointment. We've compiled up-to-date answers to the most frequently asked questions about your first mammogram.

  1. When should I get my first mammogram? 

Current guidelines suggest scheduling your first mammogram between the ages of 40-45, even if you have no symptoms or family history. Ultimately, deciding when to get your first mammogram is your choice. Consider your health history, risk factors, and the benefits and limitations of screening when making your decision. Talking to your health care provider about your options and concerns is the best way to determine the right time for your first appointment.

  1. What should I expect at my first appointment? 

A mammogram appointment typically takes about 20 minutes. You'll undress above the waist and wrap yourself in the provided gown or sheet. A technician will position your breasts on the mammography machine's plate. The upper plate will be lowered to compress your breast slightly in order to obtain the clearest possible images. Most women report some discomfort during the breast compression phase, but it only lasts a few seconds. Sometimes multiple images will need to be taken if you have larger breasts or implants. When you’re finished, you can go about your day with no special instructions or side effects. Expect to repeat the screening every year, or as recommended by your doctor.

  1. How long does it take to get my results?

    It’s normal to feel a little anxious about your results after your first mammogram. Most women will receive their results within 7-10 days. Feel free to call your doctor’s office to inquire if it has been longer than that, or if you have a new concern you’d like to discuss.

  2. What if I get an abnormal result? 

While it may seem scary to get a call from your doctor indicating an abnormality from your first exam, remember this – it is relatively common and does not necessarily mean you have breast cancer. Because you likely have no previous records to reference and compare, radiologists tend to be especially diligent in requesting additional follow-up tests for first timers. Less 10% of women who require additional screening actually end up with a breast cancer diagnosis.

Scheduling your first mammogram to screen for breast cancer is smart, and doesn't have to be scary. If you have questions about mammogram guidelines or concerns about your first time, schedule an appointment to talk with one of our providers today.


This is a public forum, by which BDWH provides general information to patients and prospective patients. You should not post any personal or identifying information on this Blog. The information that appears on this Blog does not constitute medical advice and is not a substitute for a consultation with a Healthcare Professional.

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