You may be offered mammograms, MRI, or a combination of both.
This is the most commonly used test for screening. A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray of the breast tissue. It tests for early breast cancer. You'll need to remove your clothes from the top part of your body, including your bra. The radiographer will then position you so that each breast, in turn, is placed on the x-ray machine and gently but firmly compressed (squashed) against a flat, clear, plastic plate. The breast tissue needs to be compressed to keep the breast still, and to get the clearest picture with the lowest amount of radiation possible. Most women find this uncomfortable, and for some women it is painful for a short time while the breast is being compressed. You'll need to stay still for less than a minute while the picture is being taken. Usually two mammograms are taken of each breast from different angles.
The standard way of taking mammograms uses x-ray images of the breast. A newer technique called digital mammography uses computer imaging. Studies have shown that digital mammograms are better at finding cancers in younger women and women who have denser breast tissue.
Women under 50, who are having mammography because of an increased risk of breast cancer, will have digital mammography whenever possible.
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
MRI scanning is used for screening some women who are under 50 and at very high risk.
MRI scans use magnetism instead of x rays to build up a detailed picture of the breasts. During the scan, you'll be asked to lie very still on a couch inside a long tube for about 30 minutes. It's painless but can be uncomfortable, and some women feel a bit claustrophobic during the scan. It's also noisy, but you'll be given earplugs or headphones.
Some women are given an injection of dye into a vein in the arm, but this does not usually cause any discomfort.