A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast tissue. An x-ray is a type of radiation that can pass through the body and is used to make an image of the tissue and bones. A mammogram image shows the detail of breast tissue from two different angles.
Wear a two piece outfit.
Do not wear deodorant.
The type of machine used and the process to get the first four images is the same for a screening or diagnostic mammogram. More images may need to be taken in a diagnostic mammogram to look at a specifici area more closely, and different types of tools may be used to compress the tissue in different ways.
For women of average risk research shows that the benefits of breast cancer screening with mammography outweigh the potential harms. BreastCheck recommends most women age 50-74 have a screening mammogram every 2 years.
Research shows that regular screening mammograms reduce deaths from breast cancer in women age 50 to 74 by 20-30%.
This is due to early detection. Most breast cancers discovered through regular screening are found at an earlier stage when there may be more treatment options as well as more positive outcomes.
Breast screening does not prevent breast cancer. A mammogram can only find breast cancer if it is already there. Some women may develop breast cancer before their first mammogram or between mammograms.
Mammograms do not find all breast cancers. 20 out of every 100 breast cancers cannot be seen on a mammogram, some cancers are very difficult to see on a mammogram, and/or the radiologist reading the mammogram may not see cancer (this happens occasionally no matter how experienced the doctor is).
When a person has more glandular and fibrous connective tissue than fatty tissue, their breast tissue may be called dense. Breast density:
At this time, mammography is the best way to screen for breast cancer. Experts do not agree if women with dense breasts should go for more tests after a mammogram or how often they should be screened. A radiologist may recommend more tests if they think it is best for you. If you have dense breasts and are concerned about your risk of developing breast cancer you should discuss your presonal risk factors with your healthcare provider. For more information about dense breasts click here (pdf).
It is important to know how your breasts normally look and feel. Contact your healthcare provider if you notice any changes in your breasts between screening appointments, even if you had a normal screening mammogram.
About 5 out of every 100 women screened at BreastCheck will be sent for further tests. Only 1 of these 5 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Although this is a normal part of the screening process, going for further tests may cause anxiety and worry.
Mammograms are not guaranteed to save your life. Not all breast cancers found at screening can be cured. Some women will die of breast cancer even though it was found by a screening mammogram; some will die of something else before they would die of breast cancer. For these women, their quality and length of life may not be increased by finding the breast cancer. There is no way to know which women will fall into these groups and which women will be truly helped by screening.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has a Decision Aid (pdf) for women ages 40 and older that further explains the benefits and possible harms of breast cancer screening.
Most women age 50 to 74 should have a screening mammogram every 2 years. Trans men and women may need regular mammograms. Talk with your healthcare provider about your individual risk for breast cancer.
Women can be screened at BreastCheck if they are 50 years of age and over and:
Women who are not eligible to be screened a BreastCheck should speak with their healthcare provider about the best breast healthcare for their individual needs.
Women who have symptoms of breast cancer should be referred to a diagnostic mammography clinic by a healthcare provider to undergo further testing.
Your mammogram report will also note your breast density. BreastCheck categorizes breast density into one of two categories:
When a person has more glandular and fibrous connective tissue than fatty tissue, their breast tissue may be called dense. To request your breast density information click here to complete a request for information. The request can be mailed or emailed to BreastCheck.
If you have dense breasts and are concerned about your risk of developing breast cancer, you should discuss your personal risk factors with your healthcare provider.
Most mammogram results will be normal and they will be asked to return to BreastCheck in 2 years for another screening mammogram.
Some women may be asked to return in 1 year. The most common reasons for this are:
BreastCheck will send you a letter to remind you when it is time to book your next appointment. Call us if you do not receive a letter.
Even if you have a normal mammogram result, if you notice any changes from how your breasts normally look and feel, you should contact your healthcare provider.
A mammogram image may show something that the radiologist wants to check with a follow-up test(s). It is normal to be a little scared, but it is important to know that most women who go for further follow-up testing do not have breast cancer.
You will be directly referred to one or more of the following places for additional test(s):
You will be provided with more information about your specific test(s), how to prepare and how you will receive the results by the place to which you are referred.
Most clients who need further testing have one or both of these tests:
A diagnostic mammogram experience is very similar to a screening mammogram. The diagnostic mammogram takes a closer look at a specific area of breast tissue by:
A breast ultrasound uses sound waves to create an image of the breast. During an ultrasound, a small amount of gel will be placed on your breast. A small probe (wand) will glide over the skin on your breast(s). The image can show if the lump is solid or filled with fluid.
A small number of patients will need a biopsy in addition to a diagnostic mammogram and/or ultrasound. A biopsy removes a small piece of breast tissue for testing. There are two main types of biopsy:
An ultrasound core biopsy uses a needle to remove tissue for testing when a lump can be felt, or seen on an ultrasound.
A stereotactic core biopsy uses a needle to remove tissue when an area is seen only on a mammogram.
Other follow-up that may also be needed can include:
After your follow-up test(s), you will be notified by mail if/when you can return to BreastCheck for a screening mammogram. Most clients will have a normal follow-up test result and return to BreastCheck for routine screening. For more information about follow-up tests you can contact:
CancerCare Manitoba, BreastCheck
Breast & Gyne Cancer Centre of Hope
We mail you a letter to make a screening mammogram appointment every 2 years starting at age 50. A doctor's referral is not needed. Call 1-855-95-CHECK to make an appointment.
All clinics are wheelchair accessible. Make BreastCheck aware of any physical limitations when booking your appointment.
To find a mammogram clinic nearest to you:
To learn more about screening for cancers other than breast, cervical, or colorectal, click here.