What is breast screening?
Breast Screening (Mammography) is an x-ray examination of the breasts and is a method of finding breast cancer at a very early stage.
At your screening appointment a female mammographer will explain breast screening to you and ask you a few questions. She will then take the x-ray by compressing your breasts, one at a time between two special x-ray plates. The compression only lasts a few seconds and there is no evidence this harms the breast. Compression is needed to keep the breast still, in order to get the clearest picture with the lowest amount of radiation.
Some women find mammography uncomfortable and some find it painful as the breasts have to be held firmly in position and pressed to take a good x-ray. If you do experience pain it usually only lasts as long as the mammogram although it may continue for some time in a small number of women. Please do not use talcum powder or spray-on deodorant on the day you go for breast screening as this may affect the quality of your mammogram.
Why we screen
One in nine women will develop breast cancer at some time in their life. 80% of breast cancers occur in women over 50. The risk of breast cancer rises as women get older. This is why the breast screening programme only targets women in this age group.
Breast Screening can help to find small changes in the breast before there are any other signs or symptoms. Early detection may mean simpler and more succesful treatment.
The NHS Breast Screening Programme is an effective part of the UK's efforts to reduce the death toll from breast cancer. The latest research shows the NHS Breast Screening Programme is now saving 1400 lives every year in England.
Who we screen
All women between 50 and 70 years who are registered with a GP are eligible for screening. A list is compiled from GP records, so it is important to make sure your details are correct.
The invitation is sent out automatically, so there is no need to phone and make your own appointment. All women will receive their first invitation for a mammogram sometime between their 50th and 53rd birthdays.We invite doctor’s practices for screening in turn, so women will not necessarily get their invitation in the year that they turn 50. As long as you are registered with a GP, you will receive an invitation before your 53rd birthday.
Some women over the age of 70 will still receive an appointment for screening. If you do not receive a further appointment please telephone to book an appointment.
Please remember that anyone of any age with concerns about their breasts should contact their GP immediately.