13 Oct, 2023

Getting your first mammogram

Pacific woman 45 plus first mammogram healthy outdoors samoan mum

If you’re feeling nervous before your first breast screening appointment, you’re not alone.

Not only is it a completely new experience, but there are many myths out there about what actually happens at a mammogram.

You might be wondering whether it’s going to hurt, if you’ll need to take off all your clothes, or even what will happen if they find something wrong.

But there’s no need to be afraid of having a mammogram. For most women, it’s just part of routine healthcare. A 20-minute appointment every 2 years to give you peace of mind.

To help, we’ve put together some resources from timetoscreen.nz, Breast Cancer Foundation NZ and BreastScreen Aotearoa, explaining what happens before, during and after a breast screening appointment.  

Before your breast screening

If you are aged between 45-69 years old, you will get a letter telling you are now able to have free breast screening and giving you details of how to enrol.

If you are eligible but haven’t received a letter you can call BreastScreen Aotearoa on 0800 270 200, or visit their website and complete the form available here, or you can also text MAMM to 4040.

Once you’re enrolled with BreastScreen Aotearoa, they’ll send you a letter with an appointment date. If you can’t make that date, just call or email them to rebook.

If you need help with translating forms, or wheelchair access, make sure you let the clinic know as you may need a longer appointment. 

At the appointment

When you arrive, you will need to fill in a form with your contact information and other details. The radiographer (the person doing the mammogram) will come and collect you from the waiting area.

The female radiographer will take you to a private changing area, where you will need to take off the clothes on the top half of your body only, and put on a gown.

They will then come back to take you to the screening room, where (it will be just you and the radiographer).

They will walk you through every step of the mammogram and are happy to answer any questions you have about what is happening.

The mammogram takes about 20 minutes. Here's a video of someone getting a mammogram, so you can see exactly what happens.

Once the radiographer has finished the mammogram, they’ll take you back to the changing area to get re-dressed, and you can go!

Tips to make things easier at your appointment

  • Don’t wear any cream or deodorant on or around your breasts. These can show up as white spots in the scans give an inaccurate reading.
  • It’s better to wear a skirt and top rather than a dress, as you’ll need to undress from the waist up. Make sure the top is easy to take off and put on.
  • You may prefer not to wear jewellery or taonga, as the radiographer may ask you to take it off, as it can interfere with the screening equipment.
  • If you have a client detail form already, bring it along.
  • Bring any previous mammograms that you have had elsewhere (so your results can be compared with current one)
  • Don’t forget to bring your glasses if you need them to fill out a form.  

After your appointment, you will have peace of mind knowing you've done your best to prioritise your health.

Getting your results

Results are usually ready within three weeks. If you haven’t heard anything within 3 weeks, please call BreastScreen Aotearoa on 0800 270 200

We know waiting for results can be stressful, but just remember that most results are clear. 

How The Fono can help

Our Breast Screen coordinators are trained to support at every step of this journey by: 

  • helping schedule your appointment 
  • going with you to your appointment for support 
  • driving you to and from your appointment if needed 
  • helping with interpretation and translation 
  • filling out forms and keeping track of appointments 
  • supporting you through your results and (if needed) treatment 

If you would like to talk to our Breast Screen Coordinator about your next (or first) mammogram call Salome on 021 0266 8485 or email breastscreening@thefono.org

I love my role because it makes me feel fulfilled and satisfied at the end of the day; it gives me the ability to help, support our Pasifika Women and make a positive impact. My role allows me to work in a field that I am passionate about.

Salome Toiaivao, Breast and Bowel Screening Coordinator

Read more about breast screening in our resources