Breast Imaging

Breast imaging tests are used for women experiencing the symptoms of breast cancer but require further testing to diagnose the condition.

The Mater Private Hospital provides a comprehensive diagnostics and therapeutic service to woman presenting with breast cancer symptoms or diagnosis.

  • Digital Mammography

    What is a mammogram?

    A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast. Digital mammography with computer aided detection achieves better image quality and allows easier storage, transmission and manipulation of mammograms. Mammograms are difficult to interpret in young women below the age of 35. Therefore the Specialist  may not suggest this test in younger women who have a lump unless there is a very strong history of breast cancer.

    A Radiographer will carry out the test and it is essential that you tell them if:

    • You have breast implants
    • You are pregnant
    • You think you might be pregnant

    What does the mammogram involve?

    You will be asked to undress to the waist and put on a gown. Each breast will be positioned against part of an x-ray machine. Each breast needs to be compressed between the x ray machine and a flat x ray plate.You may find this uncomfortable, but it is only for a few seconds. Two x-ray views are taken on each breast from different angles.

    The Radiographer will go behind a screen, but at all times you will be in view of the Radiographer. Each exposure takes only a few seconds. The Radiographer will check the pictures and as soon as this is done you may get dressed. The test should take between 20-30 minutes.

    When should I book a Mammogram?

    You may have noticed something different about your breasts or are just worried because you hear so much about breast cancer these days.

    First go to your family Doctor and discuss your concerns.

    Your Doctor will refer you to a relevant centre for further testing, if  required.

    If you are over 40, you do not need to have any symptoms and can automatically attend a screening mammogram.

    A referral letter is required for all breast procedures.

    Either you or your Doctor can make an appointment at the Specialist Breast Centre.

    GPs can also refer patients using the Healthlink system or our referral form.

    The dedicated appointments' staff will try to book your test at a time most suitable to you.

    Preparing for a Mammogram

    • Wear comfortable clothing and please do not use deodorant, talcum powder or body cream on the day of your test.
    • Please inform us in advance if you have breast implants as the mammogram will take a little longer to complete.
    • If you have had a previous mammogram in another centre, please bring your last  films with you on the day of the test.
    • The mammogram should take about 30 minutes and any further tests carried out will require additional time.
    • A Radiologist will review the mammogram once completed. At this point, it may be decided to take additional images or an ultrasound. Where possible, these additional procedures will be performed on the same day.


    The results of your tests will be sent directly to your referring Doctor within 3-5 working days. If you have any queries on your results or your examination please do not hesitate to call the Specialist Breast Centre on 01 885 8294.

    Medical Radiation

    Low dose radiation is received during mammography. To keep this in perspective, the amount of radiation involved is equal to the amount received naturally from the environment over a period of a few months to a year. This exposure is related to a slightly increased risk (from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 100,000) of developing cancer.

    If you are, or might be pregnant, please inform the Radiographer before your mammogram.

  • A breast ultrasound is an examination of the breast using sound waves, performed by a radiologist specialising in breast care. Gel is applied to the breast area over which a sensor is moved to capture the image.

    An ultrasound takes about 15 minutes. If you are having a mammogram and a breast ultrasound during the same appointment, you can expect to be in the department for up to 60 minutes.

    There are no specific preparations required for a breast ultrasound.

  • Breast Biopsy

    A biopsy is a procedure which involves taking a small sample of breast tissue using a hollow needle. This sample is then sent to the laboratory for analysis. The biopsy may be carried out using ultrasound or digital mammography.

    Fine Needle Aspiration

    Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA) is a fast, simple breast procedure using a fine needle to take a sample of cells from the breast tissue for laboratory analysis. Fine Needle Aspiration is when fluid or cells are removed from a lump through a smaller needle.

    You can expect to be in the department for up to 90 minutes when having a breast biopsy or Fine Needle Aspiration.

    Preparation for Breast Biopsy or Fine Needle Aspiration

    • Please inform us in advance if you are taking any medications, especially blood thinners such as Warfarin.
    • It is not advisable to drive home after your procedure.
  • Charges can vary depending on the scans required and if you hold private health insurance cover. If you prefer, please call us in advance on 01 885 8856 to confirm charges.

    Breast Imaging

    • Mammogram
    • Ultrasound
    • Biopsy or fine needle aspiration – should you require a biopsy or fine needle aspiration, depending on your level of insurance cover, this may be covered directly by your insurer.

    Mammogram, ultrasound and Consultant fees are payable on the day you attend. These expenses can be submitted as part of your outpatient claim to your insurer.

    If you do not have private health insurance all charges are payable on the day you attend.

    Mammogram Screening Insurance cover

    VHI Healthcare offers partial and full cover on a number of plans for routine mammogram screening.

    Please call us on 01 885 8856 to check if your plan offers cover for this service.

Specialist Breast Centre Referral Form