What is a mammogram?

A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast which shows the structures within the breast. It is produced by exposure to a controlled source of X-rays and is recorded digitally on computer and viewed on screen. Please tell the radiographer if you are pregnant or if you think you are. You must also tell the radiographer if you have breast implants, pace makers or ECG monitors.

Are there any risks in having a mammogram?

The amount of radiation dose from breast examination is minimal (2 to 5 millisieverts, or mSv). The amount of radiation is equal to that which a person receives naturally from the environment over a period of few months to a year (2.2 mSV).
The risk involved is relative and it relates to slightly increased risk of developing cancer. If you have a breast problem then the risk of not having a mammogram may be greater than the risk associated with radiation.

Is it safe to have a mammogram during pregnancy?

The radiation dose to your baby is very minimal and it is safe. It is essential that you tell your radiographer if you are pregnant or if you think that there is a possibility that you may be pregnant
If you are pregnant an ultrasound scan may be used instead of a mammogram.
If mammograms are required to help in the diagnosis the radiographer can use a lead apron to protect your lower abdomen which reduces the radiation dose to your baby even though it is actually a very small dose.
It is important that you do not use talcum powder, deodorant, antiperspirant or perfume on your breasts and arm pits as they interfere with the images.

What does the mammogram involve?

Once you are in the mammography room, the breasts are X-rayed one at a time. The breast is placed on the X-ray machine and gently but firmly compressed with a clear plate. Two X-rays are taken of each breast at different angles. The pressure reduces the movement of the breast to avoid blurring of the images and the compression of the breast reduces the amount of radiation required to produce the images. The radiographer goes behind a screen. You are in view of the radiographer at all times and can be heard, should you have a problem.

How long will the mammogram take?

Time will be spent for positioning of your breasts correctly. It generally takes about ten to twenty minutes.

Is it painful to have a mammogram?

The process of having the mammogram is very quick.Most people find it uncomfortable when the breast are compressed between the plates. Some find it painful especially if the breast are tender.