Cobalt Health expert insight: Everything you need to know about mammograms

Armed with a handful of burning questions about what really is a mammogram, who is eligible for one and why is it crucial to attend one, SoGlos speaks to NHS consultant radiologist and medical director at Cobalt Health, Iain Lyburn to find out more.

A vital part of Cobalt Health for 15 years, Iain Lyburn is the medical director at the Cheltenham charity which is one of the leading diagnostic imaging centres for breast screening.

Speaking to SoGlos about who is eligible for a mammogram, why it’s harder to screen younger women and how you can access the service, Iain tells us why it’s vital to attend your mammogram appointment.

Providing ground-breaking digital imaging to patients in Gloucestershire, Cobalt Health’s aim is to reduce death from breast cancer by finding the signs of cancer at an even earlier stage.

For more information about Cobalt, visit cobalthealth.co.uk directly.


Coablt Health

What is a mammogram?

It is basically an X-ray of the breast and the way that it is different from having your knee x-rayed is that the breast is compressed.

The breast is placed between two plates which are gently pushed together and you take an image of the plates in three different ways.

Who is eligible for a mammogram?

There are two ways that you are eligible for a mammogram. The first is through the screening programme, this involves being invited to have a mammogram. The core group is for 50 to 70-year-olds, every three years.

There’s also currently a trial to see whether women from 47 to 50 and 70 to 73 can benefit from mammograms. Your registered GP will arrange for you to have a mammogram, which is why your neighbour may be called for a mammogram before you, depending on where their GP surgery is.

The other way is if you find a lump or have pain in the breast and your doctor refers you on to the breast clinic where you will have a mammogram or an X-ray.

What happens during the mammogram and is it painful?

About one in five women do find it a bit uncomfortable and the reason for that can depend on what stage you’re at during your menstrual cycle. Most people don’t find it uncomfortable at all. Just because it is painful one time, doesn’t mean it will be next time.

The idea behind the breast being compressed it a bit like taking a photograph. If you imagine you are holding something still, you will get less blur and a clearer picture. When the breast is still, it’s easier to pick up a clear view.

Can anyone have a mammogram, especially if they’re younger?

When women are younger, the breasts are much denser and breast cancer isn’t so common. The overall lifetime risk is that one in eight women will get breast cancer, but as you get older it becomes more common.

When you get older your breasts get less dense so it is easier to see any abnormalities. We want to make sure that we can find something and it’s easier to see.

What advice would you give to someone who is worried about attending a mammogram?

Even if a mammogram does hurt a little, it will not do any permanent damage to the breast. It’s also worth asking what will be involved if you’re finding the prospect quite daunting. The breast clinical nurses are also great at helping out.

For women that have a mammogram done, some may be invited back so we can have a better look at other areas. Of those women who are invited back, only one in eight will have something that needs further help. If we invite you back, it doesn’t mean you have cancer.

Why is it crucial to attend a mammogram appointment?

If you pick up a breast cancer through screening, you have a much better chance of survival. If you pick up something smaller, you also have a better chance of curing it.

If they find cancer during a mammogram and it’s so small that you can’t feel it, it’s better than not attending an appointment and then feeling a lump years later when it has had chance to spread.

If you’ve had a normal mammogram and you find something abnormal within your breast, don’t wait for the next screening. If you feel something you’re not sure about, come along to the clinic. People are never a bother or a nuisance, we’d much rather see them if they’re worried.


For more information, see Cobalt, call (01242) 535910, visit cobalthealth.co.uk directly.

© SoGlos
Thursday 29 November 2018

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