How breast screening works

Find out how the free breast screen session works. We take a step-by-step approach during the appointment. You can also find out where your results go.

Before screening

When making an appointment, tell BreastScreen if you have breast implants, a disability, or need the assistance of an interpreter during your appointment.

On the day of your appointment, wear a top and trousers or a skirt as you will be asked to remove your clothing from the waist up during your screen.

What happens during screening

Health professionals called radiographers or mammography technologists perform screening mammograms. All BreastScreen Australia radiographers are female. The radiographer will collect your forms and talk you through what will happen in your screening mammogram.

Your radiographer will take you into a private X-ray room and ask you to remove your clothing from the waist up. The radiographer will then place one breast at a time between 2 plates on the X-ray machine. The machine will press firmly on your breast for about 10 seconds to take the picture. It usually takes 2 pictures of each breast, one from the side and one from the top.

Having a mammogram should only take a few minutes. The whole appointment usually takes about 20 minutes.

Does having a mammogram hurt?

You may find having a mammogram is uncomfortable. This is because the radiographer needs to press your breasts firmly between 2 plates on the X-ray machine to take a clear picture.

It is normal to feel discomfort, but this should only last a few seconds. If you feel pain, please tell the radiographer at the time, as they can release the pressure.

We expose your breasts to the smallest amount of radiation possible. It’s about the same as 18 weeks of radiation exposure in a natural environment.

Hear from women who’ve been through the program.

After the appointment

Results are generally sent in the mail within 2 weeks to:

  • you
  • your doctor or health service – if you’ve agreed to this.

Read more about understanding your results.

If you haven’t received your results in 6 weeks or have any questions about your results letter, contact your state or territory BreastScreen Australia service.

How screening and diagnostic mammograms differ

screening mammogram is a breast X-ray test. It’s for women with no symptoms and usually takes 2 X-ray images of each breast. BreastScreen Australia provides free screening mammograms and you don’t need a doctor’s referral.

A diagnostic mammogram is a breast X-ray test for women with breast symptoms. A diagnostic mammogram usually takes many more X-ray images than a screening mammogram. You need a doctor’s referral to a private or public radiology practice. Your doctor cannot refer you to BreastScreen Australia for a diagnostic mammogram.

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