Whether you’ve yet to have your first screening mammogram or have been getting them for years, Johanna Kelsey, lead radiographer at OneWelbeck Women’s Health in London dispels some common mammogram myths…

Photo: Simon Jarratt

‘We need to get the information out there,’ says Johanna Kelsey, lead radiographer at OneWelbeck Women’s Health in London. ‘There are many misconceptions about mammograms regarding when or at what age you can get one, and it’s really important that people know the truth. Prevention is better than cure, and this information could save your life.’

Below, Johanna reveals six things every woman needs to know about mammography.

1. You don’t need to be over 50 to get a mammogram

‘The idea that you are only eligible to have a mammogram once you’re 50 is a complete myth,’ Johanna explains. ‘There’s a stigma that the NHS will only call when it’s appropriate, but the reality is they are unfortunately understaffed, on a budget and incredibly busy.’

At the Women’s Health centre at OneWelbeck, you can get a screening mammogram once you turn 40, and after you turn 70 and are no longer eligible for screening under the NHS, you can still self-request one.

OneWelbeck can teach patients breathing techniques to help them relax the muscles, making the mammogram more comfortable. Photo: Simon Jarratt

‘Many medical colleagues and GPs I know weren’t aware of this information, so it’s really important to raise awareness and start getting checked as soon as possible to detect a potential cancer,’ she says.

OneWelbeck’s Enhanced Breast Screening uses tomosynthesis, which is a form of 3D mammogram technology that shows up abnormalities more clearly on the x-ray. ‘As a result of such advanced technology, we pick up more anomalies in test results, and consequently 40 per cent of our patients receive follow-up needle testing to ensure they are healthy,’ Johanna says.

‘By getting screened earlier at 40, we are able to detect abnormalities or breast lumps and reach a diagnosis earlier, more often than not resolving them with minor surgery. This prevents what may have manifested into something more harmful or even breast cancer by the time you reach 50.’

2. You can self-refer for a mammogram

‘You do not need to be referred for a mammogram,’ Johanna explains. ‘There is a misconception that asymptomatic women who just need screening need to be seen by their GP or breast surgeon, but this is not the case.’

At OneWelbeck, you can save money and time by visiting the clinic directly and receiving your results from the radiologist the same day.

Any woman over the age of 40 should consider getting a mammogram as it can help care for your long-term health and prevent more serious issues from developing. Photo: Simon Jarratt

3. Mammogram radiation levels are low and will not put your body at risk

‘If you’d questioned me about concerns over radiation 30 years ago, my answer would have been different. I completely understand those who are anxious about potential toxicity entering their body, but with today’s modern and safe technology, radiation is of minimal concern, and getting a mammogram can help to preserve your long-term health,’ Johanna says.

4. There are techniques available to make mammograms more comfortable and accurate

‘I can’t promise it won’t be painful – but when I do the mammograms on my patients, it’s important for them to know why we have to compress the breast,’ Johanna tells us. She explains that the equipment is cold on the skin, but the more relaxed the patient is, the more comfortable the mammogram will be.

‘There are breathing techniques that we can teach patients to help them relax their muscles and soothe them before the scan,’ she says. ‘The more relaxed patients are, the clearer and more precise the images will be, and it will drastically improve their experience.’

At OneWelbeck, the appointments are 30 minutes long, with the scan taking no longer than five minutes. This allows ample time for you to relax and enjoy a chat with your radiographer beforehand.

5. Mammograms work just as well on smaller breasts

‘There’s a belief that mammograms won’t work as well on a woman with smaller breasts as they have less tissue. This is simply not true – we have a compression paddle which is pressed onto the tissue to keep it still and prevent blurring,’ Johanna says.

After you turn 70 and are no longer eligible for screening under the NHS, you can still self-request one at OneWelbeck Women’s Health clinic. Photo: Simon Jarratt

OneWelbeck Women’s Health has various sized paddles that cater to different breast sizes, making mammograms possible for women no matter their breast shape or size.

6. Mammograms can and should be done on breast implants

‘Another worrying myth is you shouldn’t get a mammogram with breast implants,” Johanna explains, ‘which is completely false and I would avidly advise against this. I encourage any woman over the age of 40 to get a mammogram, no matter what the circumstance.’

OneWelbeck Women’s Health can use ultrasound as well as a mammogram for those with implants, to thoroughly scan the breast, and any tissue concealed by the implant.

‘This ensures we are analysing all parts of the breast tissue and not missing any potential breast lumps or abnormalities that may need further inspection.’

OneWelbeck Women’s Health is easily accessible via several underground routes.

For more information about mammograms at OneWelbeck’s Enhanced Breast Screening, visit onewelbeck.com/breast-screening.

To speak to the OneWelbeck team or to book an appointment, contact bookings.womenshealth@onewelbeck.com or call 0203 653 2008.