Having a Mammogram

A mammogram is an X-ray examination of the breasts and is a method of finding breast cancer at a very early stage.

Nichola Richards Breast Screening Nurse in mammography roomA female mammographer will compress your breasts, one at a time between two special x-ray plates and take the x-rays. The compression only lasts a few seconds and does not cause any harm to the breasts. Compression is needed to keep the breast still and to get the clearest picture with the lowest amount of radiation possible.

Are mammograms safe?

Any x-ray involves radiation but mammograms only require a very low dose. It is about the same as the dose a person receives by flying from London to Australia and back. The risk that such a low dose could cause a cancer is far outweighed by the benefits of early detection of breast cancer.

Can I bring someone with me?

Yes, but please be aware that there is limited space at some of our screening sites particularly the mobile screening vans.

Does a mammogram hurt?

Some women find mammography uncomfortable and some find it painful, as the breasts have to be held firmly in position and pressed to take a good X-ray.

If you do experience pain it usually only lasts as long as the mammogram, although it may continue for some time in a small number of women.

Does breast screening prevent breast cancer?

No. Breast screening aims to find breast cancer at an early stage when it may be too small to feel. Finding breast cancer early greatly increases your chances of successful treatment.

How long will the mammogram take?

A mammogram takes a few minutes, however your whole visit to the screening unit will take about half an hour.

I have a disability, how will this affect my screening appointment?

Please contact us to discuss your appointment, as we may need to allocate more time for your screening. Your appointment may be made at our static unit at Tower Hill, Bristol or Bristol Breast Care Centre, Southmead Hospital, where we have better disabled access.

I have a pacemaker, can I have a mammogram?

Yes, it is safe for you to have a mammogram. It is helpful if you can tell the mammographer where your pacemaker is sited.

I have a pacemaker, will this affect my mammogram?

Your pacemaker may hide the small area of breast tissue behind the pacemaker, preventing it from being seen on the X-ray. The film readers will only be able to report on the breast tissue that they can see on your mammogram.

I have breast implants can I have a mammogram?

Yes because you still have breast tissue, which should be screened. There is no evidence to suggest breast implants are damaged by mammograms.

If you have been invited to one of the mobile vans then please contact us to discuss your screening appointment as your appointment will need to be changed to the main unit so we can allocate more time for your appointment.

I have breast implants will this affect my mammogram?

Breast implants appear as a solid white area on a mammogram. This may hide some of the breast tissue preventing it from being seen on theXx-ray. The film readers will only be able to report on the breast tissue that they can see on your mammogram.

If you have implants and have been made an appointment at the mobile screening unit please contact us as your appointment will need to be changed to the main unit as the films will need to be checked for image quality before you leave.

What shall I wear for my appointment?

You will be asked to undress completely down to your waist so it is a good idea to wear separates instead of a dress.

When do I get my results?

Your results will be sent to your home address and this should be within 2 weeks. You will be advised of any expected delays at the time of your screening.

Where will the mammogram be done?

Your mammogram will be performed either at a mobile screening unit or static unit within a building, at one of our local screening sites.

Who will take my mammogram?

A female mammographer will always perform the X-ray.