Breast mammography (screening) is a low X-ray examination of the breast which is used to detect any abnormalities of the breast tissue. It plays an essential part in detecting cancer at an early stage when lumps and changes in the breast are too small to be felt manually and thus increases the chance of successful recovery. Mammogram is performed by specially trained female technologist who is called radiographer. Radiologist, on the other hand, is a specialist doctor who works in the x-ray and medical imaging department. Mammogram takes a few minutes and involves only a tiny dose of radiation, and as such is very safe. The test is usually carried out in a radiology department of a hospital, in a clinic or it can sometimes be performed in mobile vans.
What happens when mammogram is taken?
Before the examination you should never use deodorants or talcum powder as this may affect the outcome of the mammogram. Before the test you will be asked to undress to the waist and when you are ready, a female radiographer will explain mammography to you and ask you a few questions. The radiographer will position your breast (one at a time) in the machine. The machine compresses the breast whilst the x-ray picture is taken but the pressure is released automatically straight afterwards. The compression only lasts a few seconds. Though this may be uncomfortable, it is absolutely essential because compression improves the accuracy of the test. Using compression is not dangerous and does not cause any damage to the breast tissue. When the x-ray pictures of both breasts are taken, they have to be processed. Sometimes the x-ray picture must be repeated for technical reasons and sometimes extra views will be requested by the radiologist.
Sometimes an ultrasound examination will also be performed on the same day. Ultrasound can show changes in the breast that are difficult to see on the mammogram or can provide additional information.
When will I get my results?
This depends on several factors. If you are seeing the breast surgeon on the same day, then you may be given the report in an envelope to be taken to the surgeon in the breast clinic. If the investigation is being carried out on a different day, or if it was requested by your family doctor, then the result will be sent on to the requesting doctor (family doctor, oncologist or breast surgeon). You are not able to telephone the x-ray department for your results.
Further general information Your doctors and specialist nurses are in an ideal position to give you relevant information on your disease and treatment as they know your individual circumstances. Cancerbackup has a help line (0808 800 1234) and a prize winning video available in English, Italian, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati & Hindi explaining Radiotherapy & Chemotherapy. Cancernet.co.uk has over 500 pages describing cancer, its management, practical tips and tool which patients, their carers and their doctors have found helpful during the cancer journey.