Mammography is a specific type of imaging that uses a low-dose x-ray system for the examination of breasts. A mammography exam, called a mammogram, is used as a screening tool to detect early breast cancer in women experiencing no symptoms and to detect and diagnose breast disease in women experiencing symptoms such as a lump, pain or nipple discharge.

Why is mammography important?

Mammography plays a central part in early detection of breast cancers because it can show changes in the breast up to two years before a patient or physician can feel them. Breast Cancer is the most common cancer among women in Singapore . 1 in 20 women has a chance of developing breast cancer in their lifetime.

The BreastScreen Singapore program recommends screening mammography for women aged 40 and above. Research has shown that annual mammograms lead to early detection of breast cancers, when they are most curable and breastconservation therapies are available.

While mammography is the best screening tool for breast cancer available today, mammograms do not detect all breast cancers. Also, a small portion of mammograms indicate cancer is present when it is not (called a false-positive result).

Different types of mammography Film Screen Mammography

Film screen mammography involves minimal radiation exposure. A skilled technologist positions and compresses the breast between two plates. Then a highly specialized x-ray equipment takes two pictures of each breast from two directions. Mildly uncomfortable for most women, mammography can be painful for some. But compression of the breast is necessary to flatten and reduce the thickness of the breast. The X-ray beam should penetrate as few layers of overlapping tissues as possible.

Digital Mammography

Digital mammography uses the same technique as film screen mammography, except that the image is recorded directly into a computer. The image can then be enlarged or highlighted. If there is a suspicious area, your doctors can use the computer to take a closer look.

How should I prepare for a mammogram?
  • Do not schedule your mammogram for the week before your period if your breasts are usually tender during this time. The best time for a mammogram is one week following your period.
  • Always inform your doctor or radiographer if there is any possibility that you are pregnant.
  • Wear a comfortable 2-piece outfit.
  • Do not use deodorant, perfume, powder or ointment on the underarms or breasts.
  • Please bring along all your previous mammogram films so that it can be compared with your current.
  • You will be asked to fill in a questionnaire before the start of your mammogram. Please ask the radiographer if you unsure of how to answer any of the questions.
How is a mammogram performed?

The mammogram is performed by a specially trained female radiographer.

  • In the procedure room, you will be asked to stand at the x-ray machine.
  • The radiographer will position your breast in the mammography unit. Your breast will be placed on a special platform and compressed with a paddle (often made of clear Plexiglas or other plastic). You will feel pressure on the breast as it is squeezed by the compressor. Some women with sensitive breasts may experience discomfort. If this is the case, schedule the procedure when your breasts are least tender.
How often should I have a screening mammogram?

The Health Promotion Board of the Ministry of Health, Singapore, recommends that women aged 40-49 years have regular mammograms every year, and women above 50 years of age, every two years.

Women who are a higher risk of developing breast cancer should see a doctor for advice. You may need to go for screening earlier and more frequently.

Breast compression is necessary in order to:
  • Even out the breast thickness so that all of the tissue can be visualized.
  • Spread out the tissue so that small abnormalities won’t be obscured by overlying breast tissue.
  • Allow the use of a lower x-ray dose since a thinner amount of breast tissue is being imaged.
  • Hold the breast still in order to eliminate blurring of the image caused by motion.
  • Reduce x-ray scatter to increase sharpness of picture.
  • The technologist will stand behind a glass shield during the x-ray exposure. You will be asked to change positions slightly between images. The routine views are a top-to-bottom view and an oblique side view. The process will be repeated for the other breast.

The examination process should take about half an hour. When the mammography is completed you will be asked to wait until the radiographer examines the images to determine if more are needed.

What are the benefits vs. risks?


  • Imaging of the breast improves the detection of small tumors. When cancers are small, there are more treatment options and a cure is more likely.


  • The effective radiation dose from a mammogram is about 0.7 mSv, which is about the same as the average person receives from background radiation in three months.
  • Women should always inform their doctor or radiographer if there is any possibility that they are pregnant.
  • False Positive Mammograms. Five percent to 15 percent of screening mammograms require more testing such as additional mammograms or ultrasound. Most of these tests turn out to be normal.
Limitation of mammogram

While mammography is the best screening tool for breast cancer available today, mammograms do not detect all breast cancers. Also, a small portion of mammograms indicate cancer is present when it is not (called a false-positive result).


Prepare yourself for a medical examination by downloading this questionnaire.

Mammography is available at:

Radiology Clinic,
Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre

3 Mount Elizabeth #01-01
Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre
Singapore 228510
(65) 6731 2727
Fax: (65) 6235 5279

Radiology Clinic,
Breast Imaging Centre

290 Orchard Road
#07-04 Paragon
Singapore 238859
(65) 6732 1166
Fax: (65) 6732 5933

Radiology Department,
Gleneagles Hospital

6A Napier Road
Singapore 258500
(65) 6470 5730
Fax: (65) 6470 5749

Radiology Department,
Mount Elizabeth Hospital

3 Mount Elizabeth, Level 2
Singapore 228510
(65) 6731 2100
Fax: (65) 6732 3368

Radiology Department,
Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital

38 Irrawady Road, Level 2
Singapore 329563
(65) 6933 1188
Fax: (65) 6933 0526

Radiology Department,
Parkway East Hospital

321 Joo Chiat Place
Singapore 427990
(65) 6340 8714
Fax: (65) 6340 8670

Radiologic Clinic,

6A Napier Road #02-25/26
Gleneagles Hospital
Singapore 258500
(65) 6476 1151
Fax: (65) 6471 1151

Radiologic Clinic,
Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital

38 Irrawaddy Road, #01-03/04, #01-13
Singapore 329563
(65) 6388 4333
Fax: (65) 6266 3085

Radiologic Clinic,
The Arcade

11 Collyer Quay
#18-02 The Arcade
Singapore 049317
(65) 6507 9750
Fax: (65) 6224 0861

Radiologic Clinic,
Jurong East

130 Jurong Gateway Road, #01-219
Singapore 600130
(65) 6569 0300
Fax: (65) 6569 7593


Visit this FAQs page for more information.



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