14 Things to Remember While Preparing for a Mammogram

Mammograms are a type of X-ray used to detect breast cancer. It is recommended that women start getting annual mammograms at age 40.

There may be questions regarding the test for someone about to get their first mammogram. It's perfectly normal and common to feel anxious before a mammogram. Knowing what to expect and how to prepare before, during, and after the screening can help ease some of your concerns.

This article will explain everything you need to know about preparing for a mammogram, both mentally and physically.

Woman prepares for mammogram with healthcare provider

Yellow Dog Productions / Getty Images

14 Mammogram Preparation Steps

Whether this is your first mammogram or annual screening, knowing what to expect before the test can help ease some uneasiness you may feel.

One study found people felt less anxious and were more comfortable about mammograms after attending an educational meeting taught by a radiologist. Be sure to speak with your healthcare provider if your fears prevent you from getting a routine mammogram.

Being prepared is a great way to ease your concerns. There are several preparation tips to keep in mind before, during, and after a mammogram.

Scheduling a Mammogram

Before scheduling a mammogram, keep the following in mind:

  • Tell your healthcare provider about your breast cancer risk factors: This includes previous surgeries, hormone use, and family history of breast cancer, as well as if you have had breast cancer before.
  • Ensure your healthcare provider understands any issues or changes with your breasts: Let them know if you've felt any lumps or noticed changes with breast or nipple size. You may require a diagnostic mammogram as opposed to regular screening.
  • Avoid scheduling your mammogram a week before or during your period: Your breasts may be swollen and tender, which can be more uncomfortable and impact imaging.
  • Schedule your mammogram at the same facility each time (if possible), which makes year-to-year comparison easier.
  • Make sure the facility you choose is certified, which will ensure the best images.

The Night Before

The night before a mammogram, thoroughly wash your underarms and breasts: This will ensure you remove traces of perfumes, lotions, and other products that can interfere with test results.

The Day of the Mammogram

On the day of your mammogram:

  • Don't wear jewelry: Jewelry may interfere with the images.
  • Bring past imaging, if necessary: The radiologist will want to compare old images with the new ones. If you're going to a new facility, bring a list of the places and dates of previous mammograms, biopsies, or other breast procedures.
  • Do not use deodorant, antiperspirants, powders, lotions, creams, or perfumes under your arms or under (or on) your breasts: These products may contain substances that can show up as white spots on the X-ray.
  • Pack your deodorant and skin care products: You can use them after the mammogram.
  • Make sure your technologist has all the information they need: Let them know of any problems you're experiencing with your breasts, changes with your breasts, if you have breast implants, if you have a problem standing without a cane, if you're breastfeeding, or if you think you may be pregnant.
  • Wear pants or a skirt, not a dress: The technologist will give you a medical gown because you will have to undress from the waist up. Wearing a skirt or pants will make the process easier and make you feel more comfortable.

24 Hours Later

After a mammogram, consider the following:

  • Take a pain reliever: While mammograms are usually only briefly uncomfortable during the compression, taking pain relievers such as Motrin or Advil (ibuprofen) can be helpful.
  • Ask facility staff when you can expect results: If you haven't heard anything within 10 days, call again and ask. Often, your mammogram results are sent to your healthcare provider, so you may want to check in with them, too.

Coping With Anxiety

Anxiety following a mammogram is understandable, especially if you have been experiencing changes or problems with your breasts. It is easy to assume the worst. But it is important to remember that mammograms are meant to be helpful.

It's very common to feel anxious as you wait for test results. Call a friend or family to discuss your concerns and stick to your everyday routine. If your anxiety is taking over your daily life, reach out to your healthcare provider or a mental health specialist.

Only about 2–4 screening mammograms out of 1,000 lead to a breast cancer diagnosis.

Post-Mammogram Pain and Discomfort

For most people, mammograms are uncomfortable, but the discomfort is usually over within a few seconds. The level of pain or discomfort you have can depend on the experience and skill of the technologist, the size of your breasts, and how much your breasts need to be compressed to capture the images.

A study followed 1,800 women after a screening mammogram, and 52% reported feeling moderate to extreme pain during the test. In another study of 954 women, 9.3% said they had severe pain, while 21.6% reported mild discomfort. In both studies, most patients did not experience so much pain that they would not continue getting mammograms.

Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever before or after a mammogram can help with the discomfort.


A mammogram is an X-ray that can be used to detect breast cancer. Before getting a mammogram, there are several steps you can take to prepare, such as avoiding deodorant, perfumes, and other skincare products. Discomfort is common during the test but usually brief. Planning and knowing what to expect will ease any anxiety you may be feeling.

A Word From Verywell

Mammograms are a type of screening that can help detect breast cancer, even in its early stages. Early diagnosis leads to better outcomes, which is why mammograms are so important. If you are concerned about getting your mammogram or are experiencing anxiety, talk to your healthcare provider about your worries. They are there to help you.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What’s the top thing to avoid before a mammogram?

    Avoid wearing deodorants, antiperspirants, lotions, and perfumes before a mammogram. These products can contain substances that can impact images.

  • How soon after a mammogram do results come in?

    Results usually come in within a few weeks, although they vary from facility to facility. Contact your healthcare provider if you do not hear about your results within 30 days of your mammogram.

  • What kind of shirt should you wear for a mammogram?

    Wear a comfortable shirt that is easy to change in and out of. Avoid wearing a dress, as you will have to remove your clothing from the waist up.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American College of Radiology. Mammography saves lives.

  2. Lee J, Hardesty LA, Kunzler NM, Rosenkrantz AB. Direct interactive public education by breast radiologists about screening mammography: impact on anxiety and empowerment. Journal of the American College of Radiology. 2016;13(1):12-20. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jacr.2015.07.018

  3. American Cancer Society. Tips for getting a mammogram.

  4. Breastcancer.org. Why can't I wear deodorant to my mammogram?.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What is a mammogram?

  6. Dullum JR, Lewis EC, Mayer JA. Rates and correlates of discomfort associated with mammographyRadiology. 2000;214(2):547-552. doi:10.1148/radiology.214.2.r00fe23547

  7. Keemers-Gels ME, Groenendijk RP, van den Heuvel JH, Boetes C, Peer PG, Wobbes TH. Pain experienced by women attending breast cancer screeningBreast Cancer Res Treat. 2000;60(3):235-240. doi:10.1023/a:1006457520996

By Molly Burford
Molly Burford is a mental health advocate and wellness book author with almost 10 years of experience in digital media.