Yale Health

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a mammogram?

A mammogram is a safe test to screen for breast cancer, which uses a low-dose x-ray machine to take pictures of a woman's breasts. Mammograms allow radiologists to look for breast lumps and changes in breast tissue. They can show small lumps or growths that may not be felt during a clinical breast exam.

Should I be worried about radiation dose from a mammogram?

Mammography involves a very low dose of radiation to the portion of the breast under exam. The dose is much lower than the natural level of radiation that every person receives from the environment during one year.

For example, the average mammogram (four views) has a typical effective radiation dose of 70 millirems (a measure of radiation dose equivalent).  As a comparison, the average person in the US receives a dose equivalent of 300 millirems per year from natural sources.

For more information, call the Ob/Gyn Department at 203-432-0222 with any questions or visit:

National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service
800-422-6237


How will I get the results from my mammogram?

The Breast Center at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven will send you a letter with the results of your mammogram or you will be contacted if any follow-up care is needed with the results of your mammogram.

How do I get ready for my mammogram?

When you make your appointment, you will be given instructions you may need to follow before you go. Some general guidelines include:

Before your mammogram, discuss any new findings or problems in your breasts with your primary care clinician or Ob/Gyn clinician. In addition, inform your clinician of any prior surgeries, hormone use, and family or personal history of breast cancer.

Make your appointment for one week after your period, when your breasts are less likely to be tender.

If you have never had a mammorgram through Yale-New Haven Breast Center, bring previous mammograms, breast sonograms, films, or discs and reports to your appointment so that they are available to the radiologist, who needs the prior information in order to make comparisons to your current mammogram.

Describe any breast symptoms or problems to the technologist performing the exam. Inform the technologist of your previous breast history.

Inform the technologist of the date of your last clinical breast exam and your menstrual cycle (if appropriate).

Wear a shirt and a separate bottom, rather than a dress. This way, you can undress from the waist up and leave other clothes on.

Avoid coffee, tea or caffeinated soft drinks for a few days, before a mammogram. Caffeine can cause breast tenderness.

Don't wear deodorant, perfume, lotion, or powder under your arms or on your breasts on the day of your appointment, as these can cause shadows on the mammogram.

If you have breast implants, be sure to tell your mammography facility when you make your appointment. You will need a technologist who is trained in x-raying patients with implants because breast implants can hide some tissue.

Is the mammogram going to hurt?

Adequate compression is necessary for the radiologist to see the breast tissue better. Compression of the breast also lowers the radiation dose. Women who have tender breasts may experience discomfort.

If you are afraid or nervous about feeling pain during your mammogram please discuss this with the technologist before the examination. The technologist will work with you to make you as comfortable as possible while still taking good-quality images.

How is a mammogram done?

The radiological technician places one breast at a time between two plastic plates, which press the breast to flatten it. You will feel pressure and possibly some discomfort for a few seconds. The flatter your breast is, the better the picture. Usually, two pictures are taken of each breast, one from the side and one from above. 3-D mammograms are available at The Breast Center at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven. A screening mammogram appointment takes about 30 minutes from start to finish.

Do I need a referral to get a mammogram?

Yale Health members do not need referrals for screening mammograms and may call The Breast Center at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven directly at 203-688-1010 to schedule an appointment. However, please give the mammography center your primary care clinician's or Ob/Gyn clinician's name so your results can be forwarded to them.  If Yale Health is not your primary insurance, please verify coverage and the need for a referral with your primary insurance company.         

All other breast imaging requires a referral.

Where can I make an appointment for a mammogram?

Yale Health members may obtain screening mammograms from the Yale-New Haven Breast Center at various  locations by calling 203-688-1010 to schedule an appointment.

Locations include:

  • Yale-New Haven Breast Center, Smilow Cancer Hospital, 35 Park Street, New Haven

  • North Haven Medical Center, 6 Devine St, North Haven  

  • Long Wharf Medical Center, 150 Sargent Drive, New Haven

  • Shoreline Medical Center, 111 Goose Lane, Guilford

  • Yale-New Haven Mammography Van, mobile van, multiple locations

How often should I get a mammogram?

You should talk to your primary care clinician about when to start and how often you should have a mammogram, current recommendations are:

  • Women 40 years and older: to be individualized based on the patient's and clinician's assessment of risk and benefit.
  • Women 50 years and older: every 1-2 years.

Several reputable organizations such as the American Cancer Society, US Preventive Health Task Force, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists make similar recommendations about the frequency of mammography.

Click here to see all of the Adult Preventive Guidelines.

Do you offer on-site mammography or breast ultrasound exams?

No.  Yale Health does not offer on-site mammography or breast ultrasound exams at the Yale Health Center at 55 Lock Street.

Yale Health members may obtain screening mammograms by calling 203-688-1010 for any one of the following facilities:

  • Yale-New Haven Breast Center, Smilow Cancer Hospital, 35 Park Street, New Haven

  • Long Wharf Medical Center, 150 Sargent Drive, New Haven

  • Shoreline Medical Center, 111 Goose Lane, Guilford