Breast screening

As per national screening guidelines, females are invited for breast screening between the ages of 50 -70 years old, every three years.

As the list is compiled from current GP records, it is important to make sure you are registered with a GP and that your details are correct.

The invitation is sent out automatically, so there is no need to phone and make your own appointment. Invitations for screening are sent approximately 3-weeks before the appointment time.

You will be sent a letter and called to one of the hospital screening sites or mobile screening sites (which are situated throughout the region).

Why we screen

The risk of breast cancer rises as females get older.

Breast screening can help to find small changes in the breast before there are any other signs or symptoms. Early detection may mean simpler and more successful treatment.

To help females make an informed choice about whether or not to come for a breast screening, all eligible females will receive a leaflet called "Breast Screening, the Facts" with their invitation.

What happens during a routine breast screening appointment?

Every effort is made to minimise anxiety at all stages of screening.

At your appointment, your details will be confirmed with a member of staff, and you will be given information about how you will receive your results. From the waiting area, a mammographer (female radiographer) will take you to a private changing room, where she will ask you some questions, such as:

  • Have you ever had surgery to your breasts?
  • Are you taking HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy)?
  • Do you currently have any under breast soreness (cracked/bleeding skin)?
  • Do you examine your breasts frequently?
  • Do you have any current breast cancer symptoms?
  • If this is your first screening mammogram, have you had any previous mammograms or problems with your breasts?

You will then be taken directly into the x-ray room, where the mammographer will show you the equipment used to carry out the mammogram.

You will be able to ask the mammographer any questions you have about the test, although the mammographer does have a limited time to perform the mammogram. The mammographer usually takes two x-rays of each breast, with any additional x-rays, if required. During the mammogram, the mammographer will put you into the correct positions needed. If at any time you feel unsteady, please tell the mammographer, who will offer you a special seat that you can sit on for your mammogram.

Obtaining the highest quality images of your breasts requires the breasts to be held firmly, (one at a time) between two flat plastic plates. The pressure can feel a little tight and uncomfortable, but should not be painful, it only lasts a few seconds for each x-ray taken. After your mammogram, the mammographer will take you back to a room, where you will then be able to get dressed and leave the unit.

You will receive your results in the post within three-weeks.

If you will be over 70 when your next screening mammogram is due, the mammographer provide information and guidance on how to request a breast screening appointment.


After a routine screening mammogram, there are three possible results:


Your x-rays have shown no signs of cancer, and you will be invited for your next routine screen in 3-years. You will automatically get your first invite for breast screening between the ages of 50 - 53. You will then be invited every 3-years until you are aged 71.

Technical repeat

Sometimes the quality of the x-ray does not allow for all the breast tissue to be seen clearly and needs to be repeated for technical reasons only. Approximately 3 out of 100 females screened will be called back for a technical repeat to get a clearer, more detailed mammogram. You will usually be invited to attend the screening site where you had your initial mammograms performed.


Sometimes the mammograms do not give enough information and a further examination is needed before we can decide on a result. You will receive a letter inviting you to one of our breast care units for further assessment.

This additional appointment is part of routine screening, and for the majority no concerns will be found. If you are invited to an assessment clinic will be able to speak to a member of staff by telephone before attending their appointment for more information

When you arrive, a clinician from our specialist multi-disciplinary team will explain what will happen and keep you informed at all stages. The clinician involved at each stage of your appointment will vary.