In England, breast screening is routinely offered to all women aged 50 to 70 every 3 years. It’s really important that you look out for your invite and attend your screening.
In the meantime, if you notice any signs and symptoms of breast cancer, do not wait for an invite – visit your GP as soon as possible. From there you will be referred to a breast clinic. If you are based in Manchester, this will most likely be at The Nightingale Centre where the Greater Manchester Screening Programme is run from.
What is a breast screening?
Breast screening is a breast health check. The health check may include a breast examination, an ultrasound, a mammogram (which is an x-ray type test of the breasts which can spot cancers at an early stage when they’re too small to see or feel), and further tests if required.
What happens during your breast screening appointment?
What happens during your appointment will depend on if you are attending the breast clinic for a routine breast screening (mammogram) or if you are attending following a GP referral.
You can find out what happens at your routine breast screening (mammogram) appointment on the NHS website here.
If you have been referred by a GP, your breast screening appointment will take place at a breast screening clinic, either in a hospital or a mobile unit.
You will be cared for by an expert team of nurses and doctors while you attend the clinic. You are welcome to bring someone with you if this would make you feel more comfortable.
- In the first instance, you will receive a breast exam.
- From there you will then go on to receive a mammogram. A mammogram is an x-ray examination of the breasts and is a method of finding breast cancer at a very early stage.
- You will also receive an ultrasound of your breasts.
- Based on these results you may be asked to return for a biopsy.
Your nurse will keep you informed of everything that is happening at every stage in the process, but if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.
Most people who visit a breast clinic leave being told they do not have breast cancer. But if you are given a diagnosis, this can obviously be very upsetting. The doctor will explain what their findings are as well as their recommendations for treatment. You will be assigned a breast care nurse who is there to answer any questions or concerns you may have.
If you are based in the Greater Manchester area and have a mammogram (screening appointment) that you need to change, please visit the Greater Manchester Screening Programme Website.
For more information about what to expect from your first mammogram, click here.
Why isn’t breast screening routinely offered to those under 50?
Screening tends to be less effective for women under 40, as younger women’s breast tissue can be more dense, which makes it harder to spot changes in the x-ray images. However, if you have a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer, or have been found to have an increased risk of cancer, you may be eligible for a screening appointment before the age of 50. You can find out more about breast screening under the age of 50 in this interview with Breast Surgeon Consultant, Professor Cliona Kirwan.
Screening when you are over 70
In England, once you reach the age of 70, you will no longer be invited to have regular breast screenings. If you would like a breast screening then you absolutely can have one, but you will need to contact your GP and ask to stay in the breast screening programme to continue to have mammograms every three years. Breast Surgeon Consultant, Professor Cliona Kirwan, explains this in more details below.
Remember to always follow government guidelines around Covid-19. There may be extra precautions in place such as hand sanitising, wearing a mask and attending your appointment on your own. Please contact your breast clinic directly to find out more.
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