What to Expect When Having a Mammogram

About one in eight women in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. If it's detected early, treatment is more successful and there's a good chance of recovery. Breast screening aims to find breast cancers early. It uses an X-ray test called a mammogram that can spot cancers when they're too small to see or feel. As the likelihood of getting breast cancer increases with age, all women aged from 50 to their 71st birthday who are registered with a GP are automatically invited for breast cancer screening every 3 years.

In the meantime, if you're worried about breast cancer symptoms, such as a lump or an area of thickened tissue in a breast, or you notice that your breasts look or feel different from what's normal for you, do not wait to be offered screening, see a GP.

Whether you’ve experienced a mammogram or not, knowing what to expect may help the process go more smoothly, so we’ve put together some useful information to know before going for your mammogram.

A mammogram usually takes place at a special clinic or mobile breast screening unit, usually done by a female health practitioner called a mammographer. You should call your breast screening unit before your appointment in certain situations such as:

  • If you have a physical disability or find climbing steps difficult. This is so your screening unit can make any necessary arrangements for you.
  • If you have breast implants. Mammography can be less effective in women who have breast implants because the X-rays cannot "see" through the implant to the breast tissue behind it. You'll usually be able to have a mammogram, but let the screening staff know beforehand.
  • If you have had a mammogram recently, or are pregnant or breastfeeding. You may be advised to delay breast screening.


What happens on the day

When you arrive at the breast screening unit, the staff will check your details and ask you about any breast problems you have had. You can also ask any questions you may have.

You'll need to undress to the waist, so it may be easier to wear a skirt or trousers instead of a dress.

First, the mammographer will explain what will happen. She'll then place your breast onto the mammogram machine and lower a plastic plate onto it gently but firmly to flatten it. This helps keep your breast still and ensures a clear X-ray.

The mammographer will usually take 2 X-rays of each breast – one from above and one from the side.

She'll go behind a screen while the X-rays are taken. You have to keep still for several seconds each time.

Most women find the procedure uncomfortable and it can occasionally be painful, but the compression is necessary to ensure that the mammogram is clear. Any discomfort will be over quickly.

The whole appointment takes less than half an hour and the mammogram takes a few minutes.


After your breasts have been X-rayed, the mammogram will be checked for any abnormalities.

The results of the mammogram are usually sent to you and your GP and necessary actions can they be made.


If you're worried about breast cancer symptoms, or you notice that your breasts look or feel different from what's normal for you, it is important that you raise this with your GP. At Pall Mall, we offer private breast screening services. Quote MAMMOGRAM40 upon booking to get £120 off from 1st – 30th October 2020.


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