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Breast Screening

Breast screening helps detect cancer or any other abnormalities at an early stage. This helps with early treatment. To help with early detection, women are advised to get their mammograms annually done, once they reach age 40 and over. You can self refer for your mammogram provided you have no breast symptoms and are registered with a NHS GP.

At 108 Harley Street, our walk-in imaging clinic offers you rapid diagnostic tests which include routine breast mammography, ultrasounds for women below the age of 40 and other procedures like biopsies, cyst aspiration and marker insertions all under one roof.

Early detection gives us the chance to treat it before the cancer spreads leading to a more positive outcome.


Types of Mammograms

2D Mammogram

The traditional 2D mammogram is a two imaged X-ray taken digitally. The first X-ray image is taken by the mammographer from the top followed by a side image. This is done unilaterally (for one single breast) or bilaterally (for both the breasts).

Screening helps detect breast cancer or any abnormalities which are too small to see or feel.

3D Digital Mammogram

Our full field digital 3D tomosynthesis mammography is a diagnostic examination that uses high powered computing to help compile a series of images to a “3-dimensional viewed mammogram”.

This type of mammogram helps radiologists to see breast tissue more clearly and can examine the tissue a millimetre at a time. This means fine details of the breast are more visible, with no tissue going unnoticed or hidden.

3D mammograms are offered to the following group of people:

  • Young patients, patients with known dense breast tissue,
  • Patients with new lumps,
  • Patients with a family history
  • Patients with breast cancer

What to expect from your Tomosynthesis exam.

Your Appointment

Initial assessment

When you arrive at the clinic, the staff will check your details and ask you about any breast problems you have had. At this point, if you have any queries, please ask.

During the examination

Mammograms are carried out by mammographers, who will

  • explain the procedure to you
  • then place your breast onto the mammogram machine and lower a plastic plate onto it to flatten it and keep your breast still and get clear X-rays.
  • will usually take X-rays of each breast

Time taken

The whole appointment takes less than 30 minutes and the mammogram only takes a few minutes.

Additional tests

Mammograms are usually accompanied with an ultrasound test as part of your breast screening. Apart from which your consultant may advice for certain additional tests to be conducted:

  • Vacuum biopsy
  • Core biopsy
  • Ultrasound guided localisation
  • Fine needle aspirations
  • Cyst aspiration
  • Marker clip insertion
  • Magseed clip insertion

Sympotoms of Breast Cancer

If you are concerned about a new lump or swelling please get in touch with your GP. Most lumps found in the breast are non-cancerous and benign but it is always best to have them checked.

The most common symptoms and signs of breast cancer you should look out for are:

  • If you feel a new lump, swelling or tissue thickness either in your breast, under your armpits
  • A change in the size or shape of either or both your breasts
  • If the skin of your breasts starts showing signs of dimpling or puckering
  • Your breast starts to look more reddish or inflamed
  • Any change in the appearance of your nipples:

It is important to check your breasts regularly for changes. These changes may not be because of cancer but you should get them checked by your GP or a Breast Consultant.

Breast pain is not usually a sign on its own of Breast Cancer but if you do experience constant pain in your breast you should get that checked out.

Although Breast Cancer is mostly found in women, it can also occur in men. Read more about Breast Cancer in men.

Frequently Asked Questions

To have a mammogram, you need to undress to the waist. So it may be easier to wear a skirt or trousers instead of a dress.

Please do not use a spray deodorant or talcum powder as this may show up on your mammogram. You can use roll-on deodorant.

Having a mammogram can be uncomfortable, and some women find it painful. Usually, any pain passes quickly.

We request all our patients to phone the X-ray and imaging department before coming for your appointment if you:

  • need information in another format
  • need additional support to attend screening, for example if you have a learning disability or mobility problems
  • have breast implants
  • have a pacemaker or any other implanted medical device
  • are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • have had a mammogram in the last 6 months

Your doctor will receive your breast screening results within 2 -3 days of your appointment.

The results will also be sent to you if you have requested a copy.

Occasionally women will need more imaging before they get their result. Sometimes technical problems mean that the mammogram is not clear enough to read. If this happens, you will be asked to have more images to get a clearer picture of your breast.

Mammography isn't foolproof. It does have some limitations and potential risks:

A Mammogram exposes you to low-dose radiation. The dose is very low, though, and for most women the benefits of regular mammography outweigh the risks posed by this amount of radiation.

Mammograms aren't always accurate. The accuracy of the procedure depends in part on the quality of the image, the technique used, and the experience and skill of the radiographer. Other factors - such as your age and breast density - may result in false-negative or false-positive mammograms. Always tell your doctor if you've noticed a change in one of your breasts, especially if your mammogram is interpreted as normal.

Mammograms in younger women can be difficult to interpret. The breasts of younger women contain more glands and ligaments than do those of older women, resulting in dense breast tissue that can obscure signs of cancer. With age, breast tissue becomes fattier and has fewer glands, making it easier to detect changes on mammograms.

If you're told that your mammogram is abnormal, make sure that the radiologist has compared your current mammogram with any previous mammograms.

Screening mammography can't detect all cancers. Some cancers detected by physical examination may not be seen on the mammogram. A cancer may be too small or may be in an area that is difficult to view by mammography, such as your armpit. Mammograms can miss 1 in 5 cancers in women.

Not all of the tumors found by mammography can be cured. Certain types of cancers are aggressive, grow rapidly and spread early to other parts of your body.

Having a mammogram may lead to additional testing. Among women of all ages, about 10 percent of mammograms require additional testing. However, most abnormal findings aren't cancer. This would include:

  • Vacuum biopsy
  • Core biopsy
  • Ultrasound guided localisation
  • Fine needle aspirations
  • Cyst aspiration
  • Marker clip insertion
  • Magseed clip insertion

If your mammogram shows areas of concern that may be cancer, the radiologist may recommend additional mammograms or an ultrasound. A breast biopsy may be recommended if the area continues to appear suspicious. A biopsy is a procedure to remove a piece of tissue or a sample of cells from your body so that it can be analyzed by a pathologist. If your mammogram or biopsy shows that you have breast cancer, you and your doctor can discuss the best course of treatment.

Call 0207 563 1209 to speak with 108 X-Ray and Imaging or email for more information.

Click here for Mammogram Request form for Clinical Referral

In common with leading breast cancer centres and international standards we advocate routine annual full field digital mammography from the age of 40, or from 35 if high risk factors and family history have been identified. Patients under 40 would require a clinical referral indicating the risk factors and reason for mammography.

Our data shows that about 40% of new cancers seen at The London Breast Clinic are in patients under 50, the lower age level of the NHS Breast Screening Programme.

Patients in the 3 Yearly NHS Breast Screening Programme, have the option of receiving annual imaging.   It is widely recognised that many screen detected cancers can develop during this 3 year screening interval, more frequent screening provides reassurance and peace of mind to the patient.

Breast screening is based on monitoring changes in the breast using mammography so as well as providing investigations of lumps, we are happy to arrange annual surveillance, including a prepaid cycle of 3 years.

If abnormalities are identified on screening then rapid and appropriate investigations are available within The London Breast Clinic.

In order to perform a mammogram, the breast is compressed between two perspex x-ray plates, some women find this uncomfortable, and a very small number may find it painful.  Mammography is carried out by a radiographer and the image of the breast is then reviewed by a consultant breast radiologist, who will produce a report for the consultant breast surgeon.

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