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Having A Mammogram

Eligible women aged between 45 and 69 can get a free mammogram every 2 years as part of a programme run by BreastScreen Aotearoa.

Am I eligible?

  • You are aged 45 to 69
  • Have no symptoms of breast cancer

  • Are not currently pregnant or breastfeeding

  • Have not had a mammogram from another provider within the last 12 months

  • Are eligible for public health services in New Zealand

You can choose whether or not to join BreastScreen Aotearoa and have regular mammograms. If you have had breast cancer before you can sign up 5 years after your breast cancer was diagnosed. Before that time, your doctor or specialist will make sure you have regular check ups.

Preparing for your mammogram

During a mammogram, each breast is pressed firmly between the plates of the mammogram machine for a few minutes so a clear x-ray picture can be taken. At least 2 x-ray pictures of each breast are taken. You are welcome to bring someone with you, we recommend they wait outside the room while you get your mammogram. Your test should only take about 20 minutes.

When you arrive

  • Give the receptionist your name and details

  • You will be asked to read and sign a form to agree to have the mammogram

  • When your name is called you will be shown to a private area to change into a cape or gown. Remove any deodorant you have on.

  • When you meet with your radiographer, let her know if you have breast implants, are on hormone therapy or have a heart device such as a pacemaker.

During the mammogram

  • The mammogram uses x-rays to look ‘through’ the breast tissue. To get the best picture the radiographer will need to flatter your breasts. Some women find this uncomfortable, but if it hurts please let her know right away.  

  • You will be asked to hold very still for about a minute while the pictures are taken.

  • Normally there will be two pictures taken of each breast, but more may be needed if you have larger breasts.

  • Your radiographer will let you know when your mammogram is finished and you can get dressed again in private.

  • Your test results should arrive within three weeks. Sometimes you may be asked back for another mammogram because the first one was not clear enough. This is just a technical check, not an abnormality.

Tips to make things easier

  • Don’t use creams or deodorants on the day

  • Avoid wearing jewellery as you may be asked to remove it

  • Wear clothing that is easy to remove

  • Bring your client detail form if you have one

  • Bring any previous mammograms that you have had elsewhere (so results can be compared)

After your mammogram

Your results will be sent out to you, and your doctor within three weeks. If you haven’t heard from us within three weeks, please phone us on 0800 270 200.

Second Assessment

If anything out of the ordinary shows up on your mammogram, you will be asked to come back in for another free assessment. This assessment could take less than an hour, or as long as most of the day. Remember, most women called back for a second assessment do not have breast cancer. You are welcome to bring a support person with you. They may need to stay in the waiting room during some of the tests, but are welcome to take part in any of the discussion with you on the day.

Your radiologist will need to take a closer look at what was found, this may include:

  • More pictures of the area

  • Ultrasound scan

  • Physical examination by a doctor

  • Taking a small tissue sample (biopsy) to be examined under a microscope.

Treatment

If your test results show you have breast cancer, you will be offered surgery to remove cancer. You may also be offered additional treatment such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy or a combination of these. Your ongoing care will be managed by your breast cancer specialists.

Annual Check-ups

If you have had breast cancer, you are at increased risk of developing breast cancer again. It is very important that you continue to have regular check-ups with your breast specialist or GP including clinical breast examination and an annual mammogram. Women who have had a mastectomy can still have mammograms of the other breast.