Is it time for your first screening mammogram? Here’s what to expect.

Your first mammogram provides a baseline understanding of your breast tissue makeup and is used as a comparison for subsequent screenings to monitor changes.

Your first mammogram, known as a baseline mammogram, is important because it establishes what’s normal for your breasts so you and your mammography provider can monitor your breast health annually. 

This first mammogram will determine the density of your breast tissue because research has shown that women with dense breasts have a higher lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. All women are different, and the makeup of their breast tissue reflects that.

Washington Radiology, along with the American College of Radiology and the Society of Breast Imaging, recommends that women with an average risk for breast cancer have a baseline screening mammogram at age 40, followed by a mammogram on an annual basis. Returning to the same breast-specialized provider year after year means that any breast changes you experience will be monitored over time.

Your baseline mammogram may need to happen before age 40 if you have certain risk factors, including family history of breast cancer or BRCA gene mutations. Speak with your health care provider to assess your breast cancer risk and determine the best screening plan for you.

Annual mammograms are recommended for all women age-40 and older and provide the best chance of catching breast cancer early, when it’s easier to cure. About 85% of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease.

The day of your mammogram:

  • Wear a two-piece outfit. You will undress only from the waist up. We provide comfortable privacy capes to wear during your visit.
  • Don’t apply deodorant the day of your exam. It can appear as white spots on images and cause an unnecessary return visit.
  • Do not apply lotion, powder, cream or perfume the day before or the day of your appointment.
  • The mammogram procedure takes no more than 10-minutes, with each breast getting compressed twice. Our mammograms feature SmartCurve, a compression system shaped like a breast, which has been clinically proven to reduce discomfort.
  • When your exam is complete, a breast-specialized radiologist will evaluate the images for signs of cancer, breast tissue density and other significant findings.

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