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Breast screening examination

Breast screening (mammography) is an x-ray examination of the breasts. Breast screening can show breast cancers at an early stage, when they are too small for you or your doctor to see or feel. 

A mammogram takes a few minutes and involves a tiny dose of radiation, so the risk to your health is very small. Your visit to the Breast Screening Unit may take up to half an hour.

Your examination

When you arrive, feel free to ask any questions you have about breast screening.

When you have undressed and are ready and comfortable, a Radiographer will explain mammography to you and ask a few questions. You will be asked to undress completely down to your waist, so it is a good idea to wear a separate top and trousers or a skirt instead of a dress.

Two x-rays (mammograms) are taken of each breast. This can be a little uncomfortable as your breast is placed between an x-ray detector and a compression plate. Each x-ray only takes a few seconds.

Some women find mammography uncomfortable and some find it painful as the breasts have to be held firmly in position and pressed to take a good x-ray. If you do experience pain it usually only lasts for a few seconds, although it may continue for some time in a small number of women.


When you have had the mammogram, the Radiographer will tell you how and approximately when you will get your results. Make sure you have received this information before you leave the Unit.

Some women (about one in every 20 who are screened) are called back because the appearance of the x-ray suggests that more tests are needed. Do not be surprised if we call you back. Most queries raised by mammography are not due to cancer. Most women will not have any problems and we will call them back again in two years' time as part of the routine screening process.

If we call you back and you need treatment, a specialist team will look after you. They will make sure that you get a high quality of care and treatment at all times.

The Breast Screening Unit will keep your mammogram for at least eight years. They can then compare your latest mammogram with the ones you have had before.

For more information about the records we keep, you can call +44 1624 642570.

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