Breast Screening and Mammography

What is a Mammogram?

A Mammogram is an X-ray picture of a breast. It allows us to see what is inside the breast and to look for breast cancer. Ultrasound of the breast gives different information and usually only looks at part of the breast. Mammography looks at the whole of both breasts, usually from two different angles.

Preparing for your Mammogram

You don’t need to take any special steps before a mammogram. 

Will a mammogram detect every cancer?

No. Some cancers don’t show up on a mammogram and sometimes a cancer isn’t spotted. This can happen no matter how skilled the people reading the mammograms are.

Are there any risks? 

The test involves a small amount of radiation, but the risks are very small. The benefits of the mammogram outweigh the risks. If you have implants, you may be concerned that the test will rupture them. This is very rare, but do tell the radiographer if you have implants so that they can change how the test is done to do the best job possible.

Giving your consent

You have the right to refuse any test at any point. The radiographer will check your identity prior to the test, and ask you if you want to proceed with it. If you don’t wish to have the test, just say so at any point. 

It is your decision and you can change your mind at any time. Please bear in mind that not having the test may delay a diagnosis of cancer since we often see cancers before they can be felt. If you need more information, or want to ask anything, you can do so at any time before during or after the test.

What happens during a mammogram?

Mammograms are taken by female staff only. You will only be asked to undress from the waist up. 

The woman who takes your mammograms will ask you a few questions and will explain what will happen. She will place one breast at a time between two special plates on the mammogram machine and take two pictures of each breast. Your breast needs to be pressed firmly between the plates for a few seconds so that clear mammograms can be taken. 

A mammogram takes a few minutes.  

Does having a mammogram hurt? 

Most women find having a mammogram uncomfortable. Some women find it painful, but only for a few seconds. Very few women find the pain lasts longer than this. 

When do I get the results? 

Most women with a new lump or concern about their breasts are seen in the one-stop clinic, in which case you will be given the result on the day of the test, during your visit to the hospital. If you are having a mammogram for any other reason we aim to get the result to you within 2 weeks. If you are asked to come to the hospital after a breast screening mammogram, we will tell you what the mammogram shows on the same day, but we may need to do further tests before we can reassure you, or tell you if something is wrong. 

What happens to my mammogram after the test has been looked at?

 All our mammograms are now digital. We will store your images on disc for at least 8 years, and probably permanently. These images can easily be made available to you if you move areas or even countries, and we recommend that you ask for them if you are emigrating, because it helps doctors interpret your images if they have previous ones too. 

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