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Weekdays 9am

NHS breast cancer screening

NHS key info on breast screening

  • The NHS believes women of all ages should be aware of their breast health, and if someone notices any abnormal changes to their breasts – such as a lump, rash or unusual discharge from the nipple –  they should contact their GP as soon as possible.

  • Breast cancer screening saves the lives of around 1,300 women every year in the UK and around 21,000 cancers are detected via this method.

  • The NHS in England carries out around 2.1m breast cancer screens each year via hospitals, mobile screening vans and convenient community locations, such as supermarket car parks.

  • If somebody has an appointment with the NHS for a breast screening session, it is important that they attend because the earlier an issue is detected, the quicker we can help them.

  • During Covid-19 the NHS in England has provide more than £70 million in additional funding for cancer screening capacity, so people can get the checks they need.

  • This is help to fund extra weekend and evening screening clinics, so every woman who needs a screen to access one.

NHS advice on maintaining breast health

  • The NHS believes women of all ages should be aware of their breast health – if you are concerned you should not hesitate to contact your GP.

  • Being ‘breast aware’ means getting to know how your breasts look and feel at different times and telling your doctor straight away if you notice any unusual changes. It is important that you continue to look at and check your breasts regularly, even if you have just had a mammogram. 

  • We advocate people take a ‘TLC’

TOUCH your breasts. Can you feel anything unusual?

LOOK for changes. Is there any change in shape or texture?

CHECK anything unusual with your doctor

NHS breast screening activity

  • Breast cancer screening saves the lives of around 1,300 women every year in the UK and around 21,000 cancers are detected via this method.

  • The NHS in England carries out around 2.1m breast cancer screens, each year in hospitals, and mobile screening vans usually in convenient community locations, such as supermarket car parks.

  • Screening aims to find breast cancers at an early stage when they are too small to see or feel because when they are picked up early, treatment is much more likely to be successful.

  • The actual screening x-rays (mammograms) take only a few minutes to perform, and help find breast cancers at an early stage when they are too small to see or feel. 

  • It is important that everyone invited for a screening session attends their appointment because the quicker an issue is picked up, the quicker NHS can help them.

  • During COVID-19, NHS Breast screening sessions are continuing, with locations putting in place special infection control measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

What happens during a breast screening session?

  • When a person arrives for a screen session, they are seen by a female mammographer who will explain what will happen.

  • The mammographer will check a person’s details; ask about any breast problems they may have had; and answer any questions somebody may have about breast screening, in general.

  • For the actual screening, the mammographer will place a person’s breast onto the mammogram machine and lower a plastic plate onto it to flatten it. This keeps the breast still so they can get clear X-rays.

  • The mammographer will take two X-rays of each breast which take only a few minutes, and whole screening session takes less than 30 minutes.

Breast screening eligibility

  • Women are offered breast screening on the NHS between the ages of 50 and up to their 71st birthday.

  • Women are offered their first appointment before their 53rd birthday.

  • The average age of menopause is around 51 years which is why we commence sending screening invitations between a woman’s 50 and 53rd birthday.

  • Women who are over the age of 70 can contact their local breast screening centre for screening once every 3 years.

  • Women are offered screening from the age of 50 years as 80% of breast cancers (4 out of 5) are diagnosed in women aged over 50.

  • The NHS does not typically screen women under the age of 50 because there is a lack of evidence that it is effective. Younger women who have not been through the menopause tend to have denser breasts which means that when they are x-rayed (which are also known as mammograms in the screening programme), any breast abnormalities cannot be clearly seen. As women age, their breasts change to become more fatty and abnormalities can be seen much more clearly with mammography in older breast tissue. 

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Weekdays 9am