Student Festival: From radiotherapy to mammography | Society of Radiographers

Naomi Davis explains how her choices as a student have shaped her career

Published: 19 February 2021 Students

In 2018 I graduated with First-Class Honours in Radiotherapy and Oncology. However, I decided to take an alternative route to radiotherapy and two and a half years later I have recently accepted a position as an Advanced Practitioner in Breast Care.

In the middle of my degree at Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) I realised I was not as passionate about radiotherapy as many of my peers. I enjoyed a lot of aspects of the degree including patient care and oncology studies but always felt as if something was missing.

I refused to waste a year and half of the efforts I had put into placements and assignments so I researched into alternative professions that were guided by HCPC registration, which is what the degree would finally provide me.

I explored the professions of both mammography and sonography and spent time in different departments to help me decide. After observing mammographers in various breast departments, I realised this was the career for me.

I admired how efficiently mammographers worked to produce images of the breast using the latest technology and equipment, while also having that personal contact with each patient.

Though it is rare for therapeutic radiographers to transfer into mammography, it is not unheard of. It does however require further study and returning to university to complete a Postgraduate Certificate. I felt much happier completing the rest of my degree now that I had a goal to achieve!

In my final year when my friends were applying to radiotherapy positions, I must have been the only one applying to trainee mammographer posts. Although I was leaning away from radiotherapy, my PDF Keeley Rosbottom was extremely supportive of my decisions and helped me with personal statements and interview techniques.

I did encounter a couple obstacles. Many departments expect radiographers to have at least one-year post-graduation experience and certain units will only consider diagnostic radiographers. I did not let this deter me, I applied to as many positions that were available.

In the end I had attended five interviews and I was offered four of these! The NHS Breast Screening Programme is expanding and more and more mammographers are needed to meet the increasing target pressures and demands.

I graduated from SHU in June 2018 and in September 2018 I was enrolled at the University of Salford completing a PgC in Advanced Medical Imaging. The course was very hands-on and I enjoyed transferring my radiotherapy skills to mammography.

As a Mammographer you must be efficient and have an excellent eye for detail for positioning the patient and excellent communication skills, just as you do in radiotherapy.

I qualified as a Mammographer/Specialist Radiographer in August 2019. I produce high quality images of the breast in the department as well as working on a mobile breast screening van. I assist in ultrasound and stereotactic biopsy procedures. I also have the responsibility of injecting a radioactive isotope into the breast to prepare patients for surgery. There is much more to Mammography than imaging the breast - it is an excellent career to transfer into.

Since becoming a mammographer I have admired the breast department’s Advanced Practitioners. These are extremely highly skilled experienced members of the team, specialising in certain practices in Mammography such as image interpretation, breast ultrasound and breast biopsies.

Recently I have been lucky to be offered a position of Advanced Practitioner, learning how to take biopsies of the breast under the guidance of the X-ray machine. I am now attending the University of Leeds to complete another module where the credits gained will count towards a Postgraduate Diploma.

I am extremely excited to progress with my studies and it is expected I will qualify in September 2021. Eventually I would like to complete modules in Breast Ultrasound and Image Interpretation. These credits will help me gain an MSc and result in me becoming a Clinical Practitioner in Breast Care.

Hopefully I have demonstrated that the opportunities in mammography are endless if you believe it is the career choice for you. SHU is an excellent foundation to help you achieve your goals, whichever route you may take!