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NHS Choices Condition

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The NHS Breast Screening Programme screens around 1.6 million women every year and saves an estimated 1,400 lives a year in England. Screening enables breast cancer to be found at an early stage, when there is a good chance of successful treatment and full recovery.

Women aged between 50 and 70 who are registered with a GP are automatically invited for screening every three years. Women aged over 70 don’t receive invitations, but are encouraged to make their own screening appointments every three years. Women should receive their first invitation for screening some time between their 50th and 53rd birthdays.

Mammography takes place at breast screening units in hospitals or clinics, or in mobile breast screening vans. Screening is carried out by female staff, who take X-rays of the breasts (mammography) to detect abnormalities. The breasts are 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. Most women find this uncomfortable and it may be painful for some. But the compression is necessary to ensure a clear mammogram.


  • Results from screening are sent to you and your GP in writing.
  • Around 19 out of every 20 women screened have a normal result and will be recalled for screening in three years (or encouraged to make their own appointment if aged over 70 by that time).
  • Around one in 20 women may be called back for further assessment. This could be because the first mammogram was unclear or because a potential abnormality was detected. For most women, further tests show that there is no problem.
  • Only around one in six women who are recalled for assessment are diagnosed with breast cancer, and around half of the cancers found at screening are still small enough to be removed from the breast. This means that the whole breast does not have to be removed (mastectomy).

Not all cancers are found at breast screening, and breast cancer can develop in the time between screening appointments. Because of this, women are encouraged to be ‘breast aware’, so that they can spot any unusual changes early on and report them to their GP.

Further information
For more information on breast screening, go to the NHS Breast Screening Programme website and download the information leaflets.

view information about Cancer of the breast female on www.nhs.co.uk »

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