The NHS Breast Screening program has a 5 point plan for being Breast Aware and mammography forms part of this plan as point 5.
Know what’s normal for you
Look at your breasts and feel them
Know what changes to look for
Report any changes without delay
Attend routine screening if you’re 50 or over
What does the NHS provide?
The NHS provides routine screening via three-yearly mammograms between the ages of 50-71 and then by request for any woman over the age of 71. In some areas, trials are running that mean you may be called for screening between the ages of 47 – 74. It’s also helpful to know that sometimes women are not called immediately they hit age 50 due to the location of the mobile units where they live.
Why do they screen at these ages?
Below age 40 the risks of breast cancer are much lower and breast tissue is denser, making it difficult to see smaller abnormalities that might be present, making mammograms less accurate and increasing the risk of an un-needed intervention.
Women who are between 40-49 are still considered to have a risk but a smaller one than those who are older. The upper end of this group are being trialled in some areas because it has been recognised that some interval cancers can be found in women closer to 50. The NHS do not routinely screen this age group unless in a trial area
Women between 50-71 are routinely invited for screening by the NHS every three years.
The NHS have strict protocols on radiation exposure. This means that if you have had a mammogram elsewhere within 12 months of your appointment, they will be unable to screen you.
What does Lady McAdden offer?
Please note our mammogram service is currently suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. If you would like to be updated with news relating to our services, please fill in the contact form and request to be added to receive updates. If you are eligible for the NHS national screening service, then please use them in this instance.
What happens in a Mammogram/Breast Screening Appointment?
You will be asked to undress from the waist upwards and remove any jewellery. It is also best that you do not wear antiperspirant on the day as this can affect the mammogram.
The staff are very experienced, and they will then position you in front of the machine. Don’t worry, they see hundreds of women and their naked breasts and won’t be embarrassed. You shouldn’t be embarrassed either.
Four images will be taken, two of each breast, one from the top and one from the side. You may find it uncomfortable for a few seconds as the plastic mammogram plates will squash you a bit to get the clearest picture they can. If you find it too uncomfortable, then tell the radiographer, they can try and adjust how you are positioned.
The radiographer will check the clarity of the images and then ask you to get dressed.
The whole process only takes a few minutes and although it can be uncomfortable for some ladies, has no lasting effects.
What are the risks of radiation?
Mammograms use very small doses of radiation. The risk or harm from this exposure is very low, but repeated x-rays do have the potential to cause cancer. The benefits from mammography, however, nearly always outweigh the potential harm from the small radiation exposure. Nevertheless, women should discuss with the screening staff about the need for each x-ray.
If a woman is pregnant, they should inform the radiographer prior to this x-ray as there can be risks to the growing foetus.
To put into context our radiographer pointed out that there is less radiation in a mammogram than a return flight to Australia!
How likely is screening to pick up breast cancer?
The National Screening Service typically screen around 2.3-2.4 million women per year. From this they find approx. 0.81% to 0.89% of breast cancers, which equates to approximately 20-22,000 women. 55,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year and almost half of those are found by women noticing changes themselves. To get assistance in checking yourself and being Breast Aware please go to our Breast Awareness page.
IMPORTANT – If you notice changes in your breasts, do not wait for a breast screening appointment, contact your GP for advice immediately. If you are unsure then call one of the Lady McAdden team, who can support you in calling your GP
What happens after my mammogram has been taken?
The standard protocol is for your mammogram images to be read by two highly qualified readers. This usually takes a couple of weeks and you will receive your results via letter or email.
In the event of an abnormality with your mammogram you will be contacted for referral to a Breast Clinic.
It is common for some women to be recalled for further views due to the quality of the mammogram. This is called a “technical recall”, this is something to not be concerned about, but purely a precaution as your image may not have been clear enough.
On attending a mammogram appointment, it is important to provide the dates and details of where you have had mammograms elsewhere, as these can be shared and provide valuable for the readers to be able to compare your previous images.
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