Breast screening is carried out at special clinics or mobile breast screening units.It's carried out by female members of staff who take mammograms (X-rays of the breast).
The aim of screening is to detect breast cancer at an early stage, when any changes in the breast would be too small to feel and when there's a good chance of successful treatment and full recovery.
When you arrive at the breast screening unit, the staff will check your details and ask you about any breast problems you have had. If you have any questions, please ask.
Mammograms are carried out by women called mammographers. You'll need to undress to the waist, so it may be easier to wear a skirt or trousers instead of a dress.
The mammographer will first explain what will happen. She will then place your breast onto the mammogram machine and lower a plastic plate onto it to gently but firmly flatten it. This helps to keep your breast still and helps ensure a clear X-ray.
The mammographer will usually take two X-rays of each breast one from above and one from the side. She will go behind a screen while the X-rays are taken. You have to keep still for several seconds each time.
Most women find the procedure uncomfortable and it can occasionally be painful. However, the compression is necessary to ensure that the mammogram is clear. Any discomfort will be over quickly.
The whole appointment takes less than half an hour and the mammogram only takes a few minutes.
After your breasts have been X-rayed, the mammogram will be checked for any abnormalities. The results of the mammogram will be sent to you and your GP within two weeks of your appointment. Read about understanding your results.
Not all breast cancers are found during screening. Breast cancer can develop between screening appointments. Even if you attend your screening appointments, it's still important for you to be familiar with your breasts, so you can spot any unusual changes early and report them to your GP. Read about the symptoms of breast cancer.
Please phone your breast screening unit (contact details will be on your invitation letter) before coming for your appointment if:
During the mammogram each breast is placed in turn on the X-ray machine and gently but firmly compressed with a clear plate. The compression only lasts a few seconds and doesn't cause any harm.
No, the Breast Screening Programme doesn't operate on a walk-in basis. It invites women in the target age group (50 to 70) for routine breast screening every three years.
Mammography is a procedure that is technically difficult and that requires a high degree of cooperation between the mammography practitioner and the woman.
If you do need to make a decision on someone else's behalf, consider what is involved in the screening process (including any further diagnostic tests that may be needed if the person receives an abnormal screening result). You may find it helpful to speak to their GP to discuss.
Individuals who are undergoing male to female gender reassignment may be screened as a self-referral at the request of their GP. If you have a symptom, you should see your GP in the usual way.
Individuals who are undergoing female to male gender reassignment will continue to be invited for breast screening as long as they are registered as a woman, unless they ask to be removed from the programme or have had both breasts removed.
The screening programme regularly checks records to make sure the service is as good as possible. Staff in other parts of the health service may need to see your records for this, but your records will only be shared with people who need to see them.
If you don't want to be invited for breast screening in the future, contact your GP or your breast cancer screening unit and ask to be removed from their list of women eligible for screening.
Breast screening aims to find breast cancers early. It uses an X-ray test called a mammogram that can spot cancers when they are too small to see or feel.
The NHS offers screening to save lives from breast cancer. Screening does this by finding breast cancers at an early stage, when they are too small to see or feel.
Women who are aged 50-70 and registered with a GP are automatically invited for breast screening every three years.
Breast screening is carried out at special clinics or mobile breast screening units. It's carried out by female members of staff who take mammograms (X-rays of the breast).
After your breasts have been X-rayed, the mammogram will be checked for any abnormalities. About one in 25 women will be called back for further assessment.
The NHS Breast Screening Programme is a rolling one, which calls women from doctors' practices in turn. This means not every woman receives her invitation as soon as she is 50. It will be sometime between the ages of 50 and 53.