8 Things You Should Know About Your Next Mammogram


With current recommendations stressing the importance of getting an annual mammogram once you’re 40, there’s never been a better time to get prepped for this low-dose X-ray of the breasts. We asked Colleen M. Madden, MD, the division chief of breast imaging at Indiana University Health–IU School of Medicine in Indianapolis, to sketch out eight things you need to know about this screening test that takes about 20 minutes.

1. Skip the Deodorant

It’s the aluminum (and other particles) in deodorants, antiperspirants, and lotions that can appear as white spots on the images, so avoid applying anything under your arms or on your breasts themselves. “Since aluminum is a metal, it will show on a mammogram as an artifact and that can mimic breast cancer or raise an alarm when it’s read,” Dr. Madden explains.

2. Dress for the Test

Instead of wearing a dress or one-piece jumpsuit, opt instead for separates on mammogram day. “It’s better to wear a skirt or shorts and a top,” she says. “This way you can leave your skirt or shorts on and only have to remove your top and bra before you put on your robe.” Tip: Flats or sandals are a better option for footwear than heels, as you’ll take the test while standing and you will be asked to lean in different directions as your breasts are positioned.

3. Schedule Your Test After Your Period

If you tend to have tender breasts one week before and the week during your period, don’t schedule your mammogram at this time. “We compress the breasts as part of the exam, so you wouldn’t want to have your mammogram if your breasts are tender or if you experience breast pain during those days,” Madden advises. Tip: Consider booking your mammogram one week after your period. You can also take over-the-counter acetaminophen (Tylenol) an hour before your mammogram if you experience breast pain while you’re being screened. Just be sure to speak with your healthcare provider before taking a new medication.


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