What is a mammogram?

A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray of the breast. This test can be used to help diagnose or monitor breast cancer. It is also the main test used for breast screening. If you are having a breast screening mammogram, we have more information about your mammogram appointment and what to expect.

Mammograms are usually only used for women over the age of 40. In younger women, the breast tissue is more dense (has less fat). This makes it difficult to detect any changes on the mammogram.

Women under the age of 35 are usually offered an ultrasound of the breast. But if you are under the age of 35 and are diagnosed with breast cancer, you may also have a mammogram.

We also have information for men about having a mammogram.

Having a mammogram

You will need to undress down to your waist.

  • The radiographer will position you so your breast is on the x-ray machine.
  • Next, your breast will be firmly pressed with a clear, plastic plate. This keeps your breast still and helps get a clear picture. You might find this uncomfortable or even painful. But this should only last for as long as the mammogram takes.
  • You will have two x-rays of each breast taken from different angles. This helps to makes sure as much of the breast is x-rayed as possible. Women who have very large breasts might need extra x-rays to make sure all the breast tissue is included.

Getting your mammogram results

If your mammogram was done as part of breast screening, you usually get your results in a letter. We have more about getting your breast screening results.

If your doctor arranged for you to have a mammogram, they can explain when your results will be ready.

Waiting for test results can be a difficult time, we have more information about waiting for test results that can help.

If you are worried about getting your mammogram results, it might help to talk to someone. You can call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00 (7 days a week, 8am-8pm).