Scheduling a Mammogram

mamogram scheduling

By: Stacey Nester

Effective communication with patients begins at the very moment a mammogram appointment is scheduled. It is essential to instill confidence in patients to not only achieve the highest quality images but also to ensure they have a positive and reassuring experience at your facility.

It is vital that personnel responsible for scheduling are thoroughly trained to handle communications with mammogram patients in a sensitive and caring manner. This approach is crucial for providing support and ensuring a positive interaction from the very first contact.

Questions that need to be asked when scheduling a mammogram:

When was your last mammogram?

Screening mammograms must be scheduled at least one year and one day following the last mammogram. This scheduling requirement is strictly enforced by Medicare, and many insurance companies follow these guidelines closely.

Some insurance providers may offer flexibility by allowing a mammogram to be covered if it is scheduled within the same month as the one conducted the previous year.

Adhering to Medicare guidelines is essential to prevent unexpected billing for patients. Conversely, the scheduling rules for diagnostic mammograms are more lenient; they can be conducted at any time after a previous screening mammogram, allowing for greater flexibility in patient care.

Where was your last mammogram done?

Scheduling staff should be equipped to verify the date of a woman’s last mammogram when it was performed at their facility, to ensure that the mandatory one-year minimum interval between screenings is maintained.

If a patient’s latest mammogram was conducted at another facility, she should, according to the protocols of the department, either bring the previous images with her to the appointment or complete a release of records form during her visit. This ensures that all necessary prior images are available for review at the time of her examination.

This process guarantees that all relevant previous imaging is on hand for a comprehensive comparison and detailed assessment during the exam.

This procedure allows the facility to obtain previous images, which is essential for conducting thorough comparisons and ensuring ongoing continuity of care for the patient.

Is this exam a follow up to a recent mammogram?

If the patient confirms that her previous mammogram was performed at your facility, then the process is straightforward. The technologist will have access to the prior films, which display the areas of interest, allowing for accurate and targeted follow-up imaging. However, if the last mammogram was conducted at a different facility, the follow-up exam cannot proceed without these previous images; a written report alone is insufficient. Technologists need the actual prior films to precisely locate any areas of concern, as taking additional images without this reference could lead to unnecessary radiation exposure.

Do you have any new symptoms?

The response to this inquiry is crucial for scheduling the appropriate procedure. If the patient reports a new symptom, it is important to document this information so that the technologist is informed prior to the exam. Specifically, if the symptom involves a new lump, a breast ultrasound appointment should also be scheduled to ensure a comprehensive evaluation.

Do you have implants?

Discussing breast implants can be a sensitive issue for some women, and they may be hesitant to disclose this information. Nonetheless, it is essential to ascertain this during the scheduling process, as some facilities allocate additional time for mammograms performed on patients with implants. Therefore, it is crucial to clearly note the presence of implants on the medical order or schedule, whichever is applicable, to ensure the appropriate preparations are made for the imaging session.

Is there a time of the month that your breasts are routinely more tender?

Scheduling a mammogram when a woman’s breasts are least tender is crucial for two main reasons. Firstly, less breast tenderness during the scheduled time makes the necessary compression during the mammogram more bearable. This allows the technologist to apply optimal pressure, which is essential for producing high-quality images. Adequate compression reduces the chances of missing subtle abnormalities within the breast tissue and prevents the potential misinterpretation of normal tissue as pathological.
Secondly, breast tenderness is often associated with fluid accumulation. If a mammogram is performed when the breasts are fluid-filled, it may not be comparable to previous exams conducted when the breasts were less engorged. This lack of consistency can lead to inaccuracies in reading and might result in women being called back for additional imaging unnecessarily. Therefore, maintaining consistency in the timing of exams from year to year is crucial for accurate assessment and diagnosis.

Do you have any physical disabilities that make having a mammogram difficult (challenging)?

This question, while sensitive, is essential for facilities that maintain strict mammogram scheduling. It is a fact that patients who use wheelchairs or cannot stand for extended periods require additional time during their mammogram appointments. Similarly, patients who rely on 24-hour oxygen and are not wheelchair-bound may also need extra time to sit and rest between images. Being aware of these needs in advance enables schedulers to allocate the necessary extra time, ensuring that each patient receives the care and consideration required for a smooth and comfortable imaging process.

Patient Instructions for Scheduling a Mammogram:

Once a mammogram appointment is scheduled, it’s important for scheduling staff to provide the following guidelines to ensure a smooth and efficient process:

  • Avoid perfumes, powders, and deodorants: Do not apply perfume, powder, or deodorant on the day of your exam as these can interfere with the quality of the images.
  • Deodorant wipes: If the facility provides deodorant wipes, inform the patient so they can use them post-exam. Patients are also encouraged to bring their own deodorant, lotions, or perfumes to use after their mammogram is complete.
  • Minimize jewelry: Keep jewelry to a minimum. Any jewelry that is worn should be easy to remove. Necklaces can be placed behind the back during the exam, and small earrings are typically fine to keep on. Avoid wearing large or dangling earrings, as these will need to be removed. Rings and watches generally do not pose a problem. Nipple piercings do not need to be removed.
  • Appropriate clothing: Wear clothing that is easy to remove from the waist up. Dresses are not recommended for a mammogram unless they can be easily adjusted to hang from the waist down.
  • Communicate any symptoms: If you are experiencing any symptoms, please share these details with the technologist at the time of your appointment to ensure they are fully aware and can adjust the examination accordingly.

It is important to inform the technologist if you have any scars from previous breast biopsies. Scar tissue can appear abnormal on a mammogram, potentially leading to misinterpretations. By placing a scar marker on the skin, the radiologist will be aware that any irregularities in that area may be attributable to scar tissue, aiding in accurate analysis and diagnosis.

Be sure to mention to the technologist any moles or supernumerary nipples on your breasts. Moles can sometimes resemble internal abnormalities on a mammogram. Using skin markers, the technologist can clearly indicate to the radiologist that these features are on the skin surface and not within the breast tissue itself. This information is crucial for the radiologist during the image analysis to prevent unnecessary callbacks for additional imaging.

If you possess any previous mammograms from other facilities, please bring them to your appointment.

Adhering closely to pre-exam instructions can significantly enhance the quality of your mammogram. It is the responsibility of the scheduling staff to clearly communicate these instructions to ensure patients are well-prepared for their appointments.



Read more about this and other subjects in our 15 Category A Credit X-Ray CE Course “Mammography Review”

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Get more information about mammography here.


1. What factors should be considered when scheduling a mammogram?

When scheduling a mammogram, factors to consider include the patient’s menstrual cycle (as breasts can be less tender after a period), any history of breast issues, and the timing of previous mammograms. It’s also important to schedule at a time when the patient is less likely to be stressed or rushed.

2. How far in advance should a patient schedule a mammogram?

Patients should aim to schedule their mammogram several weeks in advance to ensure availability and to allow for any necessary preparations, such as obtaining prior mammogram images from other facilities for comparison.

3. What information should a patient provide when scheduling a mammogram?

When scheduling a mammogram, patients should provide information about any breast symptoms or concerns, their family history of breast cancer, prior mammogram dates and locations, and any implants or surgeries that could affect the imaging process.

4. Why is it important to inform the scheduling staff about previous mammograms performed at other facilities?

Informing the scheduling staff about previous mammograms performed at other facilities is important for ensuring continuity of care. This allows the technologist to compare current images with past ones, aiding in accurate diagnosis and monitoring of any changes in breast tissue.

5. What should a patient do if they need to cancel or reschedule their mammogram appointment?

If a patient needs to cancel or reschedule their mammogram appointment, they should contact the facility as soon as possible. This allows the clinic to accommodate other patients and helps in finding a more suitable time for the rescheduled appointment, ensuring timely breast health monitoring.