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NHS breast cancer screening

October is breast cancer awareness month.

1 in 8 women in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime.  We know that if breast cancer is detected and treated early, treatment is more successful and the chances of recovery are higher.

The screening programme in the UK finds cancer in around 9 out of every 1000 women who undergo the screening.  The test that is performed is a type of xray called a mammogram.  The xray is looking for tiny breast cancers that might not even be apparent when you are examined.  The smaller the cancer, usually the easier it is to treat.

All women aged 50 to 70 are invited for screening every 3 years.  This is because the risk of breast cancer increases with age, and 4 out of 5 breast cancers are found in women over the age of 50.  This could mean you aren’t called until you are 53, as it is up to 3 years from your 50th birthday.  

In some parts of the country they are doing a trial by screening women from the ages of 47 to 73. 

Once you are older than 70, you will no longer be routinely invited for screening, but you can request it yourself every 3 years, either by contacting your GP to request referral, or by talking with the breast unit directly.  If you are younger than 50, the risk of developing breast cancer is very low, but not impossible.  If you have a very high risk through a strong family history, you may be able to access screening sooner

Always see a GP if you have symptoms of breast cancer at any age – do not wait to have a screening test.

Have a listen to our Breast Cancer Screening podcast on our Podcast Specials page to hear Dr Hamp and Dr McGinley go through the details and more or have a listen below:

5 October 2020