Screening Mammography FAQ

Who is eligible to have a Screening Mammogram?

Any BC woman between the ages of 40 and 79 with no known breast problems and with a primary care provider (physician, nurse practitioner, naturopath) is eligible to have a screening mammogram.

Will I experience pain?

The test might be uncomfortable during the few seconds your breast is compressed. Compression is necessary in order to capture a clear image while using the least amount of radiation. Some women may find it helpful to book an appointment within 10 days of her last period and to avoid caffeine a few days before the exam. If you have very sensitive breasts please let the technologist know as she will do everything she can to help minimize discomfort.

What happens after my mammogram?

Your mammogram will be read by a Radiologist and, if your results are normal, they will be sent to you and your primary care provider within 2 weeks.

If any abnormality is seen you will be referred for further tests. An abnormal screening mammogram does not necessarily mean that you have breast cancer. Over 95% of the women called for additional tests do not have cancer. If further tests are needed you will be called by a diagnostic office to arrange an appointment/s. These tests can include one or more of the following:

  • Diagnostic mammogram: takes x-rays of the area of concern
  • Ultrasound: uses sound waves to produce an image of the area of concern
  • Biopsy: takes a sample of the tissue from the area of concern

Can screening mammograms find all types of breast cancer?

They can find most types of breast cancer early but, like all screening tests, they aren't perfect. Some cancers cannot be seen on an x-ray and some cancers can develop quickly between 2 year intervals.

What are the radiation risks?

We are all exposed to background radiation. Radiation from a screening mammogram is about the same as six months of radiation exposure from daily living. If you would like to know more about radiation safety please see: X-Ray Safety.

Who pays for screening mammography?

The Screening Mammography Program of BC is funded by the BC Government through the BC Cancer Agency, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority.