What is breast imaging?
Breast imaging uses x-ray and ultrasound to examine the breast. The most common tests that we carry out are mammography, ultrasound and biopsy.
A mammogram is an x-ray picture of the breast. This type of examination is mainly performed on women aged 40 and over.
Most mammograms are performed in a standing position. The radiographer positions the breast onto a flat x-ray plate, then from above another plate will press down and flatten your breast for a short time while the picture is taken. Two x-rays are taken of each breast at different angles. Some women may find this uncomfortable or painful.
A mammogram takes about 10 minutes.
This type of examination is mainly performed on women under 40, as well as men. The examination is painless. We will give you the results before you leave the clinic.
A breast ultrasound takes about 15 minutes, depending if one or both breasts are being examined.
Read more about ultrasound examinations.
If a mammogram or ultrasound has identified an abnormal area of breast tissue or cells, you may be asked to have a biopsy. This involves removing a sample of tissue or cells. Local anaesthetic is used to numb the area before the procedure.
A biopsy can be taken in two ways:
Fine needle aspiration cytology
Cells are removed from the breast using a fine needle and syringe. This will feel like a normal injection. You may have a bruise for a few days.
Needle core biops
Tissue samples are removed from the area using a hollow needle. The area will be covered with a small dressing which can be removed a day later.
A biopsy can take up to 30 minutes.
The information given below applies to all types of breast imaging.
How can I prepare for breast imaging?
On the day of your appointment please do not wear deodorant, powder, lotion or perfume on your breasts or underarm areas as these products may show up on your imaging.
You can eat and drink as normal before your appointment.
Giving your consent
The radiographer will ask you if you are happy for the examination to go ahead. This is called verbal consent and may only involve the radiographer checking you are booked for the correct examination. If you do not wish to have the examination or are undecided, please tell the radiographer.
It is your decision and you can change your mind at any time. Please bear in mind that not having the examination may delay your diagnosis as the doctors may not have all of the information that they need. Please remember that you can ask the radiographer any questions you have at any time before, during or after the examination.
Please have a look at our consent policy for more information.
When will I get the results?
You will be seen by a doctor or advanced nurse practitioner in the breast clinic to be given the results of your imaging tests. Where possible, this will be before you leave the clinic.
If you have had a biopsy the results will not be given to you immediately, as the samples need to be sent away for analysis. Please make an appointment at the breast clinic for one week later to be given your results.
Mammography (breast imaging) patient information leaflets