Screening for Breast Cancer

The UK National Health Service Breast Screening Programme (NHSBSP)
Breast screening in the UK is governed by the NHS Breast Screening Programme . This involves having two x-rays taken of each breast; one from the top and the other from the side. X-rays of the breast are called mammograms.

Who is screened?
In the U.K breast screening is carried out every three years on women between the ages of 50 and 70 every three years. If you are over 70 you can still have a mammogram but you need to ask your GP to send you for this, or you can contact your local breast screening centre direct and request a mammogram.  The screening programme is slightly different in Northern Ireland

The age extension trial
Within the UK a national ‘age extension’ trial is being carried out to investigate whether women 47-50yrs and 70-73yrs might also benefit from screening. Half the women in these age groups are being invited for screening as part of a research project. If you are invited you can decide whether or not to attend for screening.

Are any women at greater risk of getting breast cancer?
Some groups of women are particularly at high risk of developing breast cancer. These include those with a genetic risk, a significant family history of breast cancer, or previous radiotherapy to the chest (e.g. treatment for Hodgkin’s disease). If you fall into one of these categories you will probably already have had discussions with your GP and hospital specialists about the best breast cancer surveillance programme for you. If you have not and are concerned then please book an appointment with your local G.P.

Do I have to wait to be invited for screening before I have a mammogram?
If a woman detects a change in her breasts such as a lump, discharge or change in shape or appearance, at any age, then she should visit her G.P who may refer her to a symptomatic breast clinic for further diagnostic tests.

There are lots of websites which tell you more about breast screening; see below. If you want a more detailed explanation of what will happen during the examination please read our section on the mammographic examination. There are also quick answers to frequently asked questions

Recomended Links

Macmillan website info

NHSBSP website

Northern Ireland Public Health Breast Cancer Awareness

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/breast-screening-programme-overview

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/nhs-breast-screening-age-extension-trial