Breast Screening (Mammogram)

Author: Jess Batten - Communications Officer - February 7, 2022

Breast Screening (Mammogram)

 

This information is for anyone that is attending their routine breast screening, often referred to as a mammogram. You can find information about attending a breast clinic following a GP referral after displaying symptoms here.

 

What is a breast screening?

Breast screening is a breast health check. NHS breast screening uses a mammogram, which is an x-ray test, to spot cancers at an early stage when they’re too small to see or feel. Breast screening can pick up breast cancer before there are any signs or symptoms.

 

Who is invited to breast screening?

In the UK, breast screening is routinely offered to all GP registered women aged 50 to 70, every 3 years, as part of a national breast screening programme. It’s really important that you look out for your invite, call the centre to book your appointment and attend your screening.

In the meantime, if you notice any signs or symptoms of breast cancer (even if you have recently had a clear breast screening) do not wait for an invite, visit your GP as soon as possible and from there you may be referred to a breast clinic for further tests.

Below you can find information on breast screening when you are over 70, and why breast screening isn’t routinely offered to those under 50.

 

What happens during your breast screening appointment?

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 mammographers while you attend the clinic. Your nurse will keep you informed of every step along the way, but if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.

You may be asked to complete a questionnaire about your medical and family history, if you have had previous breast surgery, including breast implants, and if you are having hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

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. The mammogram will be carried out by a female mammographer and will only take a few minutes. The whole appointment should take about 30 minutes.

For more information about what to expect from your first mammogram, click here.

 

When do you get your result?

Your breast screening results will be sent to you and your registered GP in the post, usually within 2 weeks of your appointment. You can find more information about breast screening results on the NHS website here.

 

Being recalled following a routine breast screening

Around 4% of women are recalled to a breast clinic following their routine screening for further tests. You should be notified by letter within two weeks of your breast screening explaining when and where your follow up appointment will be.

Most women who are recalled will not have breast cancer. You may be recalled if the image taken on your scan wasn’t clear enough, this should be mentioned in your recall letter, and would be referred to as a ‘technical recall’. It is more common to be recalled after your first mammogram, as there aren’t any mammograms to compare to.

 

Why isn’t breast screening routinely offered to those under 50?

Screening tends to be less effective for younger women, as younger women’s breast tissue can be more dense, which makes it harder to spot changes in the x-ray images. Also, breast cancer is rarer in younger women. 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.

 

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 screen then you 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. You should still regularly check your breast, no matter what age you are.

 

COVID-19

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.

 

About Prevent Breast Cancer

Prevent Breast Cancer is the only UK charity entirely dedicated to the prediction and prevention of breast cancer – we’re committed to freeing the world from the disease altogether. Unlike many cancer charities, we’re focused on preventing, rather than curing. Promoting early diagnosis, screening and lifestyle changes, we believe we can stop the problem before it starts. And being situated at the only breast cancer prevention centre in the UK, we’re right at the front-line in the fight against the disease.

Join us today and help us create a future free from breast cancer. If you have any questions or concerns, email info@preventbreastcancer.org.uk today.