What happens when you have a mammogram?

Mammograms are done in a clinic or screening centre by a radiology technologist who will position your breast on a special x-ray machine. In most cases, you will have a female technologist perform your mammogram. You have the right to always request a female technologist when you go for your mammogram.

Mammography pictures (mammograms) show detailed images and views of the breast taken from different angles. When you have a mammogram, the breast is placed between 2 plastic plates. The plates are then pressed together to flatten the breast. This may be uncomfortable, but it lasts only a few seconds. Compressing the breast tissue helps make the images clearer while using as little radiation as possible.

There are 2 kinds of mammograms. A screening mammogram is done to screen women with no signs of breast cancer. A diagnostic mammogram helps diagnose women who have signs of breast cancer.

After a mammogram, you may be called back for further testing. It’s normal to be worried and stressed about this, but there can be many reasons why you might need further testing. In the majority of cases, breast cancer is not found.

Among women who are called back for further testing, many will have one or more diagnostic procedures. The majority will have a second mammogram (diagnostic mammogram), about half will have an ultrasound, and smaller group will have a biopsy (where a tissue sample is taken for testing).

If you have any questions about what type of test you’re having and why, ask your doctor.