Sue Atherton, Radiographer, Answers your Top FAQs on Mammograms

Breast Screening (breast x-rays called mammograms) helps to spot cancer when it’s too small to see or feel. Sue Atherton, Radiographer answers your top frequently asked questions (FAQs) about breast screening and mammograms.

What exactly is a mammogram? 
A mammogram is a special x-ray of the breasts that allows us to examine all of the breast tissue and lymph nodes. Mammogram examinations are important because they can help detect early breast disease, for example changes within the breast which cannot be felt on self-examination.

What happens during the mammogram appointment?
Your mammogram appointment will last around 30 minutes. You’ll need to remove your clothes from your top half of your body and each of your breasts will be placed on the x-ray machine. They’ll be compressed with a clear, plastic sheet which keeps the breast still and gets a clear picture. It may feel a little uncomfortable for a short time while the x-rays are being taken.

After your breasts have been x-rayed, our Consultant Radiologists will check your mammogram to look for any abnormalities.

We’ll send the results to you by first class post within 7 days.

What happens if something shows up on my mammogram? 
A small percentage of women will need further assessment (around 1 in every 25) but being called back doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer. Sometimes the original results may be unclear.

If we do find something abnormal in your mammogram report, or your results are unclear, we’ll telephone you to discuss your options. This will usually be within 5 days of your initial appointment.

Your options at this stage include going back under the care of the NHS for further tests, for example, an ultrasound, or having further diagnostic investigations at The Holly.

If you are insured your insurance company should pay for any further tests if needed. It is also possible to self-pay for any extra tests.

At what age should I start getting regular mammograms? 
In England, women aged 50–70 who are registered with a GP (family doctor) are invited to attend for breast screening every three years at their local NHS hospital.

If you prefer to have breast screening when you want, you can choose to have a mammogram at a private hospital such as The Holly.

It is safe to have mammography on our Micro Dose mammogram unit from the age of 40.

What can a mammogram do – and what can it NOT do? 
Breast Screening / mammograms can help to spot cancer when it’s too small to see or feelMammography does not detect all breast problems however and it is still really important to be aware of any changes in the appearance and ‘feel’ of your breasts.

I’ve heard that it can be bad for your health to have too many mammograms? How often should I have a mammogram? 
Due to the low dose equipment we use at The Holly, it is perfectly safe to have a yearly mammogram, even if you have a family history of breast cancer or breast disease, once you are over the age of 40 years.

It is possible to see a breast specialist in a Family History clinic at The Holly, for a breast examination and referral for imaging if needed. If you are under the age of 40 years, an ultrasound may be recommended instead.

How much does it cost for a mammogram at The Holly? 
A mammogram costs from £110.

Do I need a GP referral to have a mammogram? 
You can self-refer for a screening mammogram as long as you have no known symptoms, are 40 years or over, and have not had a mammogram within the last year.

We also offer a Rapid Access Breast Clinic, where you can have a physical examination with one of our expert breast consultants and any breast imaging required for example, a mammogram or ultrasound as well as any further tests that may be required e.g. biopsy. Our breast consultants can also refer you for any further treatment if required.

About Sue
Sue Atherton trained at The Royal London Hospital in the 1970’s and decided to specialise in mammography in 1989. She completed a post graduate course in mammography at Kings College London and qualified in 1991. She worked in the National Breast Screening Service at St Margaret’s Hospital for 5 years, working on mobile units and also working in the assessment centre at St Margaret’s. Sue has worked as a mammographer at The Holly Private Hospital for 10 years –working in screening clinics and also assessment clinics.

To make an appointment for a mammogram/ breast screening you can call our Diagnostics Centre on 020 8936 1202 or our Appointments Team on 020 8936 1201

To find out more about our Rapid Access Breast Clinic click here

Date: 29/07/2016