Most people think of mammograms (breast x-rays) in relation to screening for
breast cancer, but they can also be used to investigate specific breast symptoms
(eg a lump or pain). The Mammography Department investigates specific
symptoms, but does not carry out routine breast screening.
If your GP has referred you to the Edinburgh Breast Unit, you will usually be
given an appointment to come to the Mammography Department at the Edinburgh Breast Unit.
The department is located directly below Ward 6
and the Oncology Wards at the Western General Hospital, Edinburgh.
Your mammography appointment will be about one week before your breast clinic
appointment and you can expect to be in the department for about ½ hour. When
you arrive at the Mammography Department, please report to reception with your
Once you have given your details to the receptionist, you will be shown to
the waiting room. From here, you will be called in turn by a radiographer. You
are welcome to bring one other person with you to your appointment, but space in
the waiting room is limited. The person accompanying you will have to remain in
the waiting room while you are having your mammogram, to avoid unnecessary
exposure to x-rays.
A radiographer will take you into a private room, where she will ask about
past or present breast problems, explain the procedure and answer any questions
you may have. She will then ask you to remove clothes above the waist before
having the mammogram. (Note: All the radiographers in the department are
All the radiographers in the department have been specially trained to perform
The radiographer will take a minimum of two x-rays of each breast. To keep
your breast tissue still and to minimise the radiation dose, your breast will be
compressed between two plates. Some people find the compression uncomfortable,
but it will only last for a few seconds. This will not harm your breasts,
although they may feel tender for a day or so.
The radiographer will stand behind a screen while
the x-rays are taken. Although the radiation dose used is low, radiographers
need to avoid regular daily exposure.
The radiographer will check the technical quality of the x-rays before you
leave the department, but you will not receive the results until your breast
clinic appointment (usually within one week of your mammogram). Once the radiographer has verified the quality of the x-rays, you will be
free to go.
In preparation for your clinic visit, your x-rays will be assessed by a
consultant radiologist (a doctor specialising in using x-ray images to diagnose
medical conditions). The consultant will issue a report and assess whether more
x-rays or ultrasound scans are required at the time of your clinic visit.
Your clinic appointment is usually in about a week's time.
When you return to the Edinburgh Breast Unit on the
day of the clinic visit, your
healthcare team will discuss the results of your mammogram with you and may
send you for additional x-rays and/or an ultrasound scan if necessary orappropriate.
Sometimes the mammogram appointment and
clinic appointment may be on the same day. In this case, you will be given your
x-rays to take to the clinic following your mammogram. You may need to return to
the breast clinic at a later date, when the radiologist's report is available,
to receive the final results of the mammogram.