You may feel anxious about having a mammogram, but please be reassured that the procedure is simple and safe. Most breast abnormalities found on mammography are not cancer. However if a cancer is found, early detection and treatment can make a significant beneficial difference to the outcome.
What is a Mammogram?
Mammogram is an examination of the breasts using specialized x-ray equipment. It is one of the best methods available to detect any changes or abnormalities in the breast, and it can often find lumps that are too small to be felt by the hand.
Depending on your age and family history, your doctor may request that a mammogram be performed in conjunction with a breast ultrasound. This combination can often improve the rates of early detection.
What to expect
Having a mammogram is fast and easy and the process itself only takes only a few seconds.
Once you check in at reception, you will be shown to a small private changing room where you will be given a gown to change into. You will be asked to remove any necklaces, earrings and all clothing above the waist, and place them in the secure locker provided.
Once you are changed, a technician will bring you to a private waiting area adjacent to the changing room. This is in a private area directly next to the room where the mammogram will be performed.
How is a mammogram done?
The technician will place you in a standing position in front of the mammogram machine. You will be asked to place your breast on a clear plastic plate. Another plastic plate will slowly be lowered from above. This will flatten the breast into position. The technician will then advise you when she will apply more pressure to the plate; this is necessary in order that all breast tissue can be seen clearly and will normally take around 10 seconds.
The other breast will be X-rayed in the same way and then the process will be repeated in order to get a side view of each breast. In total, four sets of images will be taken, two of each breast.
While you are in the room, the technician will check the X-rays to ensure the images are clear and don’t need to be repeated. During this process, she will be unable to tell you the results of your mammogram.
What does having a mammogram feel like
Having a mammogram is usually slightly uncomfortable for most women. Although some women might find it a little painful, a mammogram takes only a few moments, and the discomfort is over soon.
What you feel generally depends on the size of your breasts, and how much they need to be pressed. Your breasts may be more sensitive if you are about to get or are having your period. Compression allows a lower dose of x-ray to be used during the mammogram as a thinner amount of tissue is being imaged. It also increases the sharpness and quality of the mammogram.
Your films will be passed to radiologist, who will read the mammogram and the results will be sent to your doctor to review.
Preparing for a Mammogram
To ease the process on the day:
- Bring all previous films and discs for comparison
- There is no need to fast – however; some women find that caffeine containing products (such as coffee, cola, and chocolate) can make their breasts feel tender and may therefore wish to avoid in the days before.
- You may find it more comfortable to have a mammogram 1-2 weeks after your period, when your breasts tend to be less tender.
- For ease, it’s preferable to wear two-piece clothing, such as a skirt, trousers and a top. This will make undressing easier.
- It's probably best not to wear a lot of jewelry on the day.
- Do not wear deodorant or perfume
We recommend that women with a family history of breast cancer should schedule regular mammograms as a preventive screening. Please talk to your family doctor should you have any questions.