Mammography

About the examination

A mammogram is a procedure used specifically to x-ray the breasts. During a mammography, the patient’s breast is placed on a plate and compressed with another plate. Small bursts of x-rays are passed through the breast to a detector which captures the image. Some women find the examination uncomfortable due to the compression. However, for those that do, the discomfort passes quickly. Every effort will be made by the Mammographer to ensure you are as comfortable as possible during the examination. You have a right to refuse to continue at any point. 

Please note, children will not be allowed in the x-ray room. Please leave them at home or bring somebody to watch them in the waiting room. Patients will be able to return to normal activities immediately after the procedure. 

 

What conditions can be diagnosed by a digital mammogram?

The mammography procedure is used by doctors and specialists to diagnose breast cancer, and various other diseases of the breast, for example fibroid adenoma. An ultrasound examination may also be recommended to obtain further information. This is usually done at the discretion of the radiologist, and is often done when breasts are especially dense. 

 

Why is a mammography required?

A mammography can detect tumours which are too small to be felt and have reduced the rate of terminal cases of breast cancer in patients aged between 40 and 70. 

Patients who are considered at high risk of developing breast cancer (i.e. due to a family history of breast cancer) may also be advised by their doctor to undergo regular testing. 

 

Are there any risks?

There is a small amount of radiation used; however the benefits outweigh the risks from the radiation. 

There is also a small chance that if you have breast implants these could rupture, however this is very rare, as long as the Mammographer is aware. 

 

Preparation

Patients are asked to:

Book an appointment for when their breasts are least tender. 

  • Let us know if you have had a previous mastectomy, or breast implants.
  • Avoid using perfumes, deodorants and antiperspirants or any cream and powders (these may show up on the x-ray images making them more difficult to read).
  • Let the centre know beforehand if you have any physical or mental difficulties, require extra time and/or a carer to be present. 
  • Bring any previous mammograms. 

What will happen when you arrive for your mammogram?

Your details will be checked, and your examination carried out by a Mammographer, a radiographer who has specialised in breast work. You will be asked to undress from the waist up. It is recommended that you wear a loose, comfortable, two part outfit. The whole appointment takes less than half an hour and the actual mammogram will take around 5 - 10 minutes. 

 

The results

The radiologist’s report which contains your results will be sent to your doctor within a few days.

 

Further assessment

Some patients will require further assessment; usually about one in 25 women will be called back for further assessment