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A mammography is a X-ray of your breasts used to help detect breast cancer.  It produces several X-ray images of your breast tissue that can help to detect even small tumours, even if you or your doctor cannot feel them.

A nurse with a patient during a breast screening appointment

There are two main reasons to perform a mammogram:

  • Screening mammograms: these are done at regular intervals to check your breast tissue for any changes since your last breast screening appointment.
  • Symptomatic (diagnostic) mammograms: you may also need mammography to assess a new or specific breast change detected by you or your doctor. During this type of mammogram, the radiographer doing the examination can take extra views to look at the area of concern more closely. This may include Tomosynthesis(3D) views of the breast, where several very low dose images are taken which are reconstructed to allow the radiologist to view slices of the breast.

Why digital mammography?

At The London Clinic we use digital mammograms as this latest technique helps to give the most accurate mammograms possible. Digital mammography involves passing low energy X-rays through your breast, collecting the images and then displaying them on a computer screen.

The benefits of digital mammography include:

  • Less discomfort: many women find that it is less uncomfortable than traditional mammography.
  • Better manipulation of breast images: this means our experts can detect breast cancer more accurately.
  • Greater contrast: our expert radiologists can alter contrast and darkness to make subtle differences and variations in breast issue easier to detect.
  • Improved image quality: this type of mammogram can be used for women between 40 and 50, and in women approaching the menopause, who have breast tissue that is denser than older or post-menopausal women.

What’s it like to have a mammogram?

Most women admit that mammography is not their favourite experience but it is nothing to worry about. Each of your breasts will be imaged separately and will be compressed between the mammogram imaging equipment, first from side to side and then from top to bottom. It can be slightly uncomfortable but the images are taken very quickly, and the whole breast screening mammogram is complete within 20 minutes.

Why is a mammogram done?

Screening mammograms

  • When there are no signs or symptoms of a problem
  • Mammography can detect small cancers in the breast, before they can be felt
  • They provide a ‘base line’ image of what your normal breast tissue looks like so that future changes in the breast tissue can be identified
  • Yearly on women aged over 40 years old
  • On some women under 40 with a strong family history
  • On women who have had previous lumps or cancer

Symptomatic (diagnostic) mammograms

  • When there are signs or symptoms of a problem in patients aged 35 years and over
  • When the patient presents with a breast lump, thickening or nipple discharge

What are the risks?

There is no evidence that a mammogram harms the breasts in any way. There is a theoretical risk that numerous mammograms could pose a risk over a women’s lifetime, but this is outweighed by the benefit of detecting breast cancer early.

The results

The mammograms are reported by a consultant breast radiologist. Sometimes they may suggest that you return for further views and/or a breast ultrasound.

There is no need to worry; the radiologist requires further imaging to confirm their diagnosis, e.g. benign cyst, or superimposed breast tissue.

The report will be sent to the referring doctor. A CD of the images will be given to you, or sent to your referrer. Please take the CD with you when attending breast imaging appointments not at the London Clinic.

Breast Services at THe London Clinic

The London Clinic provides a full breast care service for women who are worried about their breast health or who have developed breast cancer.

Breast Services

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