A mammography is a breast X-ray to detect cancer. It is the best screening procedure for breast cancer. Mammography is the only screening method that helps reduce the number of breast cancer deaths.
Mammography is available to all eligible women between the ages of 50 and 69 under the Québec Breast Cancer Screening Program (PQDCS).
Advantages, Disadvantages and Limitations
All women eligible for the PQDCS should learn more about the advantages, disadvantages and limitations of mammography. Each can then decide in a more informed way whether to participate in the Program or not.
Preparing for a Mammogram
Some women may be concerned by the idea of having a mammogram. Here is some practical advice to prepare you:
When booking your appointment
- If your breasts are sensitive, ask to have your mammogram within 10 days after the start of your period or when your breasts are less sensitive.
- If you have a particular condition (you have a handicap, reduced mobility, a neurostimulator, a pacemaker, breast implants, etc.), it’s important to specify this when making your appointment.
Before the mammogram
- The night before and the day of the mammogram, avoid wearing:
These products can distort the images on your mammogram.
- Do not wear a dress because you will have to undress down to your waist. A two-piece outfit is more practical as you will only have your top to remove.
- You must remove your jewellery (necklace, earrings, etc.) as well as all other objects that could affect the mammogram. If you have long hair, you should tie it back.
Mammograms are performed by medical technologists with mammography certification. In most cases, 2 X-rays are required for each breast – one frontal image and another of the side. Each breast is compressed between 2 plates for a few seconds while the X-ray picture is taken.
This procedure is uncomfortable for most women; some find it painful. The discomfort or pain usually subsides once the breast is no longer compressed. If you would like to take a pain reliever to reduce the discomfort associated with the exam, we suggest that you discuss it with your doctor, specialized nurse practitioner or pharmacist.
Your mammogram is analyzed by a radiologist. There are 2 possible results:
- The radiologist finds no abnormalities when reading your mammogram: The result of your mammogram is normal.
However, even if you participate in the screening and your mammogram is normal, it is possible that you have a cancer that could not be seen on your mammogram. Cancer can also develop after your mammogram. You should consult a doctor immediately if you notice any changes in your breasts.
- The radiologist finds an abnormality or has concerns regarding your mammogram reading: The result of your mammogram is abnormal. This result means that you must have additional examinations to see if there is a cancer in your breast.
An abnormal result can be stressful and worrisome. However, abnormal mammogram results are fairly frequent. In the vast majority of cases, additional examinations reveal no cancer.
If your mammogram was done under the PQDCS, you’ll receive a letter within a few days. This letter will include:
- The result of your mammogram
- If necessary, instructions for additional examinations
Your family doctor will also receive your mammography result. If you do not have a family doctor, a doctor associated with the Program will receive your results.