With 2D screening mammography, two X-rays are taken of each breast from opposing angles—one top-to-bottom, and one side-to-side. The breast is pulled away from the body, compressed, and held between two plates to ensure that the whole breast can be examined in the screening process.
What to expect when getting a 2D screening mammogram:
To get a mammogram, you’ll have to undress above the waist—your facility will provide you with a wrap to wear. A technologist will then position your breasts for the mammogram. You and the technologist are the only ones in the room during the mammogram process.
To get a high-quality picture of the entire breast, it must be compressed. The technologist places your breast on the machine’s plate and the plastic upper plate is lowered to compress your breast for a few seconds while the technologist takes a picture. The procedure overall takes approximately 20 minutes. The actual breast compression portion of the procedure only lasts a few seconds.
You might feel some discomfort when your breasts are compressed, and for some women the process can be painful. Let your technologist know if you’re experiencing any pain while your breasts are being compressed.
As previously indicated, two views of each breast are taken for a screening mammogram. For some women—such as those with breast implants or large breasts—additional X-rays may be needed.
How to prepare for your mammogram:
When scheduling your mammogram, try to avoid the times when your breasts are most likely to be tender or swollen to help reduce discomfort and get good X-rays. Try to avoid the week just before your period.
On the day of the exam, don’t wear deodorant or antiperspirant. Some of these products contain substances that will show up on your X-ray images as white spots. If you’re not going home directly after your appointment is over, you might want to take your deodorant with you to apply after your exam is complete.
We recommend that you wear a skirt or pants to your appointment, so that you’ll only need to remove your top and bra for the mammogram process.
Always describe any breast changes or problems you’re having to the technologist doing the mammogram. Also describe any medical history that could affect your breast cancer risk, such as surgery, hormone use, breast cancer in your family, or if you’ve had breast cancer previously. Before any type of imaging test, tell the technologist if you’re breastfeeding or if you think you might be pregnant.
Always discuss any recent changes or concerns you’ve noticed in your breasts with your healthcare provider prior to getting the mammogram.