Breast Screening

Breast screening aims to find breast cancers early. It uses an X-ray test called a mammogram that can spot cancers when they’re too small to see or feel.

As the likelihood of getting breast cancer increases with age, all women aged from 50 to their 71st birthday, and registered with a GP are automatically invited for breast cancer screening every 3 years.
Breast screening helps identify breast cancer early. The earlier the condition is found, the better the chances of surviving it.
When will I be offered breast screening?
Breast screening is currently offered to women aged 50 to their 71st birthday in England.  There is currently a trial to examine the effectiveness of offering some women one extra screen between the ages of 47 and 49 and one between the ages of 71 and 73.
You’ll first be invited for screening between within 3 years of your 50th birthday, although in some areas you’ll be invited from the age of 47 as part of the age extension trial.
You may be eligible for breast screening before the age of 50 if you have a very high risk of developing breast cancer. For more information, read having a family history of breast cancer.
If you’re 71 or over, you’ll stop receiving screening invitations but you can self refer by contacting your local screening unit or GP.
What happens during breast screening?
Breast screening involves having an X-ray (mammogram), this is done by a female health practitioner.
Your breasts will be X-rayed one at a time. The breast is placed on the X-ray machine and gently but firmly compressed with a clear plate. Two X-rays are taken of each breast at different angles.
You should call your breast screening unit before your appointment if you have:
  • a physical disability or find climbing steps difficult. This is so your screening unit can make any necessary arrangements for you.
  • breast implants. Mammography can be less effective in women who have breast implants because the X-rays can’t “see” through the implant to the breast tissue behind it. You’ll usually be able to have a mammogram, but let the screening staff know beforehand. Read an NHS leaflet about breast implants and breast screening.
  • had a mammogram recently, or are pregnant or breastfeeding. You may be advised to delay breast screening.

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