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Mammogram (breast cancer screening)

A mammogram (breast cancer screening) detects small changes in breast tissue, which may show cancers that are too small to be felt you or your doctor.

Nurse helps a woman with a mammogram machine for breast cancer screening

What is a mammography?

Regular breast screening enhances the likelihood of early detection and successful treatment of breast cancer. Screening is carried out by a mammography. Treatment most commonly offered for breast cancer includes chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. Screening is advised annually from 40 years, 2 yearly from 50 years. Screening is not normally advised below 40 years, unless there are risk factors such as a significant family history or previous history of breast cancer. A mammogram is a specialist X-ray of the breast. It uses low amounts of radiation and the risk to your health is small.


The mammogram can detect small changes in breast tissue, which may indicate cancers that are too small to be felt either you or your doctor.

The procedure

A mammogram is carried out by a radiographer who will position your breasts on the specially designed mammography machine. In order to obtain a good, clear picture the breast must be held tightly between two pieces of plastic. You may find the scan uncomfortable or painful as the breast tissue needs to be held firmly to ensure a good image is obtained, but this will only last a few seconds. Both front and side images of the breast are taken. After the scan, you’ll be able to go home immediately. Please do not use spray deodorant or talcum powder on the day of the mammogram, as this may affect the quality of the X-ray. For more information, and if you have any queries about the procedure, speak to your consultant. Continue taking your normal medication unless you are told otherwise.


Results will usually be sent to the doctor who referred you within two days of your mammogram.

Paying for your procedure

The costs of this procedure are covered by most medical insurance policies, but please check with your insurer first. If you are paying for your own treatment the cost of the procedure will be explained and confirmed in writing when you book the operation. Ask the hospital for a quote beforehand, and ensure that this includes the surgeon’s fee, the consultant radiologist’s fee and the hospital charge for your procedure.

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