A mammogram is an x-ray exam of the breast. It is used to detect and evaluate breast changes. Mammograms are most often sued to look for breast cancer that is too small to be felt in women who have no breast complaints or symptoms (screening mammograms).
Mammograms are also used in women who have breast symptoms, such as a lump, pain, nipple discharge, or who have a suspicious change seen on a screening mammogram (diagnostic mammograms).
Mammogram machines are comprised of 2 plates, the bottom plate is the x-ray plate. The machine compresses the breast to keep it from moving, and to make it thinner. These measures reduce the x-ray exposure, reduce blurring and make the image sharper. Compression can be uncomfortable and even painful for some women. Compression lasts only for a few seconds, yet is needed to produce a good mammogram image. The entire mammogram procedure takes about 20 minutes.