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How it Works

MRT positions a person while getting her mammogram

BC Cancer Breast Screening is committed to ensuring the safety of patients and health care providers during screening mammography appointments.

  • Do not attend your appointment if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms (more information at Call 1-800-663-9203 to re-book.
  • Please follow any infection control procedures that staff may provide.

How to prepare for your mammogram

  • Try to schedule an appointment when your breasts are least sensitive (e.g. within 10 days of your last period). 
  • Some find it helpful to avoid caffeine several days before an exam.
  • Do not use deodorant, powder, creams, or lotions on the day of the appointment. These products leave a residue that can make it difficult to read your mammogram.
  • During the exam, you will be asked to undress from the waist up to take a picture of each of your breasts. Some people find that wearing a shirt with buttons in the front is more comfortable during the exam. If you are wearing a shirt with buttons, the technologist will ask you to take one arm out of your shirt so that they can properly position you for your mammogram. This will be repeated on the other side.
  • We strive for a scent-free environment, please do not wear perfume. 
  • Arrive early for your scheduled appointment, as directed at the time of your booking. More info.
  • Do not bring food, beverages, or reading materials to your appointment.
  • Attend your appointment by yourself if possible. 
  • Bring your own medical mask if you have one. 
  • Practice physical distancing when waiting for your appointment. 
  • Please leave the screening centre right after your appointment.
  • Your screening results will be sent to you and your health care provider within approximately 3 weeks.

What happens during a screening mammogram?

1Step One

A female technologist will ask to measure your height and weight before your mammogram which will be documented on your confidential history form as well as other questions pertaining to your breast health.

2Step Two

The technologist will then proceed to the mammogram examination where she will place your breast on a special x-ray machine. A plastic plate will be pressed slowly to compress your breast and hold it in place for a few seconds.

3Step Three

You will feel some pressure on your breast for a few seconds during the x-ray. Compression is necessary to spread the breast tissue and eliminate motion, which may blur the picture. This may be uncomfortable and usually lasts no more than 10 seconds. Let the technologist know if you experience pain as she will work with you to make your appointment more comfortable.

4Step Four

Four pictures are taken, two of each breast. The technologist will check the pictures to make sure they are of good quality for the radiologist to read. If needed, the technologist may take additional pictures.

Your questions

At this time, only essential companions are permitted. An essential companion is someone considered paramount to the patient's physical care and mental well-being.

BC Cancer Breast Screening doesn't recommend the use of thyroid guards for screening mammograms because they can interfere with capturing a clear breast image. The guard can limit the technologist’s ability to place all of the breast tissue on the compression plate. As a result, some breast tissue may be missed or more x-rays may need to be taken. 

Also, the screening mammography x-ray directs the radiation beam towards the breast tissue, so the thyroid isn't directly exposed to the radiation beam. The thyroid can be exposed to "background scatter radiation”, which is the same amount of radiation a North American would be exposed to from 30 minutes of natural background radiation. 

‎Body Mass Index (height and weight) has been recognized as a risk factor for breast cancer.  BC Cancer Breast Screening has begun to collect this information to assist in assessing an individual’s breast cancer risk so that it may guide screening accordingly.

How does this affect your appointment?
The technologist will ask if she may measure your height and weight before your mammogram which will be documented on your confidential history form.  

How long will this take?
It shouldn’t take more than a minute for the technologist to measure your height and weight.

Is this a required part of the screening mammogram?
We respect that agreeing to height and weight measurement is an individual decision, just as breast screening is, and it is in no way conditional to you having a screening mammogram. Please remember that all data that the screening program collects is completely confidential.

Where can you find more information about this?
BC Cancer Breast Screening collects personal information under the authority of the Health Act and section 26(c) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). 
The COVID-19 vaccines do not cause breast cancer. However, there is some emerging evidence that COVID-19 vaccines can cause an abnormal screening mammography result for benign reasons (i.e. not due to cancer). This is mostly due to the temporary enlargement of lymph nodes caused by the COVID-19 vaccine, which is not dangerous, and how they appear on a mammogram. 

For those planning to make a breast screening appointment, we recommend that you go ahead and book it. We will document your vaccination history at the time of your screening appointment.

BC Cancer Breast Screening is committed to ensuring the safety of patients and health care providers during screening mammography appointments. We have introduced several measures that support safe cancer screening:

  • Mammography equipment and exam rooms are frequently cleaned and sanitized according to provincial guidelines.
  • Health care staff are instructed to remain at home and not come to work if they are sick.
  • Hand sanitizer and/or handwashing stations are available.

The mobile mammography coaches specifically have the following measures: 

  • Only one patient at a time is allowed in the mobile vehicle.
  • Un-scheduled, "walk-up" appointments cannot be accommodated at this time. Please call 1-800-663-9203 if you would like to book an appointment.

During the respiratory illness season, staff at all health care facilities are required to wear masks. To protect yourself and others please be prepared to wear a mask at your screening appointment. If you do not have your own mask, one will be provided.

If you notice any new changes in your breast such as a lump or nipple discharge, see your health care provider immediately. Your health care provider will help you determine if further testing is required.

If your health care provider decides that you need testing, you will be booked for an appointment at a diagnostic imaging office and you will be seen very quickly. This process is different than regular breast screening, which is done with women who have no breast concerns or symptoms.

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