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What is a mammogram?

A mammogram is a sensitive, low dose x-ray machine which photographs the breast and shows up possible abnormalities (although it cannot confirm cancer). It will often show lumps before they can be felt. It will detect about 80% of breast cancers. It is used mainly for women over 40 as their breast are less dense (solid) and lumps can be seen more easily.

Key points to note

  • Mammograms are safe and only use low doses of radiation
  • Most (90%) of lumps identified by a mammogram are benign or are cysts
  • You will need to take previous year's mammograms if you have them for comparison
  • Ask the specialist for your results on the day
  • Book an ultrasound if the mammogram is not clear

What will happen?

You will be asked to strip to the waist.
The technician will take two "pictures" of each breast, one horizontal and one vertical.
Each breast will be placed between two plates one at a time and squeezed by turning the screws.
This can be painful, especially if you have lumpy breasts or cysts and will feel cold, but does not take long.

What happens afterwards?

The results may be sent to your referring doctor (What do my tests mean?). You should call your doctor for the results. If the mammogram identifies a lump or something suspicious you will be asked to take a follow-up ultrasound.

You may also be told at the time:

  • There is no issue; or
  • There is a lump and you will need an ultrasound

You should still follow up with your doctor.

Learn more about
  • Ultrasound
  • Cysts, Fibrodoenomas and "Lumpy" breasts
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