What is breast screening?
- Breast screening checks or mammograms, use X-rays to look for cancers that are too small to see or feel
- These checks are done by female health specialists called mammographers
- Anyone registered with a GP as female will be invited via letter to attend a screening every 3 years between the ages of 50 and 71
- The first invitation is automatically sent out to those eligible between the ages of 50 and 53. You will then be invited every 3 years from that point on until you turn 71
If you have not been invited by the time you are 53 and think you should have been, or are over 71 and want to continue to be screened you can contact your local breast screening service:
Chester Breast Screening Unit, Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Trust
Tel: 01244 365136
How appointments work
You invitation letter will ask you to book an appointment by phone, email or online. Try to book your appointment as soon as you get invited.
It may be important to provide the screening service with additional information to ensure your appointment works best for you.
To help them plan your appointment please tell the service if you:
- need additional support to attend screening – for example, if you have a learning disability or difficulties with your mobility
- have breast implants – you may need an extra X-ray to get a clearer picture around the implant
- have a pacemaker or another medical device implanted
- are pregnant, think you could be pregnant or breast feeding
- are under the care of a breast consultant
- have had a mammogram in the last 6 months
- have had a Covid-19 vaccine within the past 5 days – some people may have swollen glands in their armpit which can be picked up by the X-rays
What happens during the screening?
- During breast screening you’ll have 4 breast X-rays (mammograms), 2 for each breast
- The mammograms only take a few minutes. The whole appointment should take about 30 minutes
- The mammographer will explain what will happen during the screening and answer any questions you have
- Breast screening can be uncomfortable or painful for some people. You can talk to the mammographer, who is trained to give you support. You can also ask to stop at any time.
- Any discomfort or pain you may have during a mammogram should go away very soon, if your pain persists for more than a couple of days, please contact the surgery to speak with a GP
- Your results will be sent to you in the post, usually within 2 weeks of your appointment. The surgery will also receive a copy of the results
- On rare occasions you may be required to have another mammogram to get a clearer picture of your breasts. In this case your results would be sent to you after the second screening.
No sign of breast cancer – You breast screening result letter may say that your mammogram shows no sign of breast cancer. You will not need further tests and will be routinely invited again in 3 years.
Need further tests – Your results may say further tests are needed and you will be given an appointment.
These tests can include:
- An examination of your breast
- More mammograms
- Ultrasound of your breasts
- Taking a small sample (biopsy) from your breast using a needle
Most people who need further tests will not be diagnosed with breast cancer.
You may feel anxious about having further tests and what this means. Your letter will tell you how to contact a breast care nurse if you have any questions or would like to discuss the process.
Try not to worry if your results take a little longer to arrive – it does not mean anything is wrong, and most people will have a normal result.
You can call the breast screening service on the above number to see if they have any updates.
- Regular breast screening is one of the best ways to spot a cancer that is too small to feel or see
- As well as going for regular breast screenings it is important you know how your breasts normally look and feel
See here for more information: How should I check my breasts? – NHS (www.nhs.uk)
If you have symptoms of breast cancer or you notice any changes in your breasts that are not normal for you, you should book an appointment with your GP, even if you have recently had a clear breast screening – Do not wait for your next screening appointment.
Macmillan Cancer Support has a free helpline that’s open every day from 8am to 8pm and are there to listen if you have anything you want to talk about.
Call: 0808 808 0000
Page updated: 15 Feb 2022