What to expect at your appointment
Throughout your mammogram appointment, you will be treated with respect and courtesy by our friendly multicultural team.
Booking your appointment
Once enrolled in the programme, you will be sent an invitation for a mammogram appointment. You should then call us on 0800 270 200 or 09 250 8000 to confirm a date, time and location that suits you. We aim to be as flexible and convenient as possible for women.
There are only very short waiting lists and at some sites, you may be able to get an appointment within a few days. If you need to change your appointment for any reason, you are most welcome to reschedule.
The day before your scheduled appointment time, you will receive a reminder phone call or text message. If you cannot make it to your appointment, please call us and reschedule.
If you have had a previous mammogram somewhere else, such as a private service, we will request a copy of your images. This is for the radiologists to compare with your new images for evidence of any changes within the breast.
If this is your first mammogram with us, you may be asked to bring photographic proof of your identity and eligibility for public health care services in New Zealand, such as your passport with any relevant NZ visa.
Having your mammogram
The appointment should take about 20-30 minutes. It will be best to wear a top with trousers or a skirt as you will need to disrobe to the waist. Do not wear talcum powder on the day of your mammogram as it may affect the quality of the images.
When you arrive, the receptionist will ask you to check that the details we have for you are correct and to sign the form to confirm that you consent to have a mammogram. There may be a short wait but we endeavour to keep this as short as possible. Your MRT (x-ray technician) will call your name and take you into the mammography room.
Our MRTs are women of all ages and will do their best to ensure you feel comfortable and at ease. They take mammograms of women within a wide range of ages, ethnicities and sizes and treat everyone with respect.
Inside the room, the MRT will confirm your identity and ask you a few questions. She explains the process and then asks you to take your top and bra off and offer you a robe to wear during the procedure.
The MRT will then position you for the mammogram. This requires her to touch your breast and spread the tissue out, in order to take a clear image of the inside of your breast. Let the MRT know if this is painful.
During your mammogram, your breast will be held for a few seconds between two plates. It does not last long and does not harm the breast tissue. Some women find this procedure uncomfortable and a few find it painful. You may ask the MRT to stop at any time. If you are concerned, you could take some pain killers before your appointment.
The MRT will take at least four images of your breasts, from the top and the sides. She will then check the images to ensure that they are clear enough. Once she has checked these, you are free to go.
Getting your results
Your mammogram images will be checked separately by at least two radiologists (doctors that specialise in x-rays). If we have any previous x-rays of your breasts on record, a comparison will be made to check for any changes. Most x-rays will be normal.
A letter will be posted to you with your results. In most cases, you should receive a letter with your results within two weeks. A copy of your results will also be sent to your doctor if you have agreed to this. If you have not had any contact from us within two weeks, please contact us on 0800 270 200.
You will be recalled again in two years' time if you are still eligible. It is important to have a mammogram every two years. We will send an invitation letter to you when your next mammogram is due. Please update your address with us if you move house.
Recall for assessment
A small number of women are requested to return for further assessment. Most women recalled will not have breast cancer.
If there is something in your images that the radiologists would like to investigate further, a nurse will call and arrange a time for you to come into the assessment clinic. Any further tests are also free within the BreastScreen Aotearoa programme.
At the assessment, you are likely to have further mammograms, a breast examination and an ultrasound. Some women may require a biopsy in which a very small sample of breast tissue will be taken and tested. Biopsy results are usually returned in one-two weeks.
The results of the biopsy are discussed by a multidisciplinary team of doctors and a diagnosis is confirmed. Another appointment will be made for you to receive your results.
If the results are unclear or warrant further investigation, a very small number of women are offered excision biopsies. This means that the abnormality is surgically removed and tested.
The few women who are found to have breast cancer will be referred to a specialist for treatment. Most women with breast cancer will be advised to have surgery to remove cancer. Treatment for breast cancer is also free through the public health system or women can choose to go through the private health system.