Breast Screening

All women known to carry a BRCA1 or BRCA2 alteration are offered annual breast screening from age 30. From age 30 women are screened with annual MRI and after 40 years of age digital mammogram is also performed. When a woman reaches 50 years, the radiologist will decide whether your breast tissue is dense and if it is necessary to continue with MRI in addition to mammograms. Women will continue to be offered annual mammograms for the rest of their lives and you can request that mammograms are performed at your screening hospital. Moderate risk patients are discharged to Breast Check.

If a woman has had risk reducing surgery removing all the breast tissue surveillance with MRI and mammograms are no longer required.

There may be some exceptional circumstances when screening may begin earlier.

You will have to undress from the waist up for your screening, so it is a good idea to wear a separate top instead of a dress.

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

An MRI scan is an imaging procedure which uses magnetic fields and radio waves to take pictures of your body. The scanner is a large tunnel, which is open at both ends and is well lit and ventilated. For best results, breast MRI examinations should be performed between 6 and 16 days from the beginning of your last menstrual period.

It is important that you tell the radiographer if you have any metal inside your body. This is to ensure that there are no adverse effects during the scan from any previous surgery, illness or injury you may have had. A small cannula or tube is inserted into a vein in your arm which will allow dye to be injected.  This dye will help to show any abnormalities in your breast tissue more clearly. You will be asked to lie down on the scanning bed allowing your breasts to rest in the cushioned holes provided.

A “call-bell” will be given to you so that you can contact the radiographer at any time. The machine makes a loud banging noise when taking the images.  Earplugs or headphones are provided to minimize this.

The whole imaging procedure usually lasts between 30 minutes and one hour. You should not feel anything during the procedure and you will be able to leave the department immediately afterward.

 Digital Mammography

Mammography uses low energy x-rays to examine the breasts. It only takes a few seconds and involves a small dose of radiation. The radiographer will position you so that each breast, in turn, is placed on the x-ray machine and gently compressed against a plastic plate. Two mammograms are usually taken of each breast from different angles.