Breast Screening

Breast Screening

Breast Screening (mammogram) helps look for cancers that are too small to see or feel


The NHS offers screening to save lives from breast cancer. Screening does this be finding breast cancers at an early stage when they are too small to see or feel. Screening does not prevent you from getting cancer.

Anyone registered with a GP as female will be invited for NHS breast screening every 3 years between the ages of 50 and 71. You’ll get a letter in the post inviting you.

When will I be invited?

You’ll automatically be invited for breast screening between the ages of 50 and 53. Then you’ll be invited every 3 years until you turn 71.

If you’re a trans man, trans woman, or are non-binary you may be invited automatically, or you may need to talk to your GP surgery or call the local breast screening service to ask for an appointment.


Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is a cancer that’s found in the breasts. It’s the most common type of cancer in women in the UK. Anyone can get breast cancer, including men.

Main symptoms of breast cancer in women include:

  • a lump, or swelling in your breast, chest or armpit
  • a change in the skin of your breast, such as dimpling (may look like orange peel) or redness (may be harder to see on black or brown skin)
  • a change in size or shape of 1 or both breasts
  • nipple discharge (if you are not pregnant or breastfeeding), which may have blood in it
  • a change in the shape or look of your nipple, such as it turning inwards (inverted nipple) or a rash on it (may look like eczema)
  • pain in your breast or armpit which does not go away – breast pain that comes and goes is usually not a symptom of breast cancer

It’s important to check your breasts regularly so you know what’s normal for you. This make it easier to notice any changes in the size, look or feel of your chest or nipples.

Main symptoms of breast cancer in men include:

  • a lump or swelling in your chest or armpit
  • liquid leaking from your nipples (nipple discharge), which may have blood in it
  • changes in the size or shape of either side of your chest
  • sores or ulcers on your chest
  • a change in the shape or look of your nipple, such as it turning inwards (inverted nipple) or a rash on it (may look like eczema)

It’s important to check your chest regularly so you know what’s normal for you. This make it easier to notice any changes in the size, look or feel of your chest or nipples.

Breast Screening

Breast screening uses an X-ray (mammogram) to check the breast for signs of cancer. Regular breast screening is one of the best ways to spot a cancer that is too small to feel or see. Breast screening saves around 1,300 lives each year in the UK.

It’s your choice if you want to go for breast screening. Screening does not stop you getting breast cancer, but it’s the best way to spot cancers at an early stage. If you do not want to be invited for screening, contact your GP or your local breast screening service and ask to be taken off the breast screening list. You can always be added back on to the list if you change your mind in the future.

What happens at your appointment?

At your appointment you will first be asked about any possible problems you have had with your breasts and if you have any questions.

You will be seen by a female mammographer who will explain what will happen during the screening. The mammographer will place your breast on to the mammogram machine and lower a plastic plate onto it to flatten it. This keeps your breast still and allows for clear X-rays.

The mammographer normally takes 2 X-rays of each breast, the whole appointment takes approximately 30 minutes in total.

Breast screening if you are trans or non-binary

You may be asked to wait in a waiting room when you arrive. You can talk to staff if you don’t feel comfortable waiting with other people.

Private changing areas are available, so you can get undressed just before the mammogram. If you wear a binder, you will need to remove this before having the mammogram.

If you have any worries or questions, you can:

Do’s & Don’ts for your breast screening appointment

You do not need to do anything special to prepare for your mammogram appointment, but there are a few that may help:

  • wear a skirt or trousers, rather than a dress, to make it easier to remove clothing to the waist
  • remove necklaces and nipple piercings before you arrive for your appointment
  • tell them if you have found screening uncomfortable in the past
  • talk to the staff if you feel nervous or embarrassed, they are trained to help you feel comfortable and provide support
  • ask staff not to use phrases or words that make you uncomfortable or nervous
  • tell the staff your pronouns, if you would like to
  • do not use talcum powder or spray deodorant on the day as this may affect the mammogram – roll-on deodorant is OK
  • need information in another format
  • need additional support to attend screening, for example if you have a learning disability or mobility problems
  • have breast implants
  • have a pacemaker or any other implanted medical device
  • are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • are under the care of a breast consultant
  • have had a mammogram in the last 6 months

Things to look out for after breast screening

Any discomfort or pain you may have during a mammogram should go away very soon, please see your GP if the pain does not go away after a couple of days.

Your breast screening results

Normally you results from your breast screening will be posted to you, usually within 2 weeks of your appointment – this will normally be sent to you by letter and a copy will also be sent to your GP.

On the rare occasion you may need to have another mammogram to get a clearer picture of your breasts. Your results will be sent after this second breast screening appointment.

Non-urgent advice: Reminder

Try not to worry if it takes longer to get your results letter. You can call the breast screening service to see if they have any updates.

It does not mean anything is wrong, and most people will have a normal result.

Your breast screening result letter may say that your mammogram shows no sign of breast cancer.

You will not need any further tests and will be invited again in 3 years.

Most people who have breast screening will have no signs of cancer

Your results may say further tests are needed. You will be given an appointment. These can include:

  • an examination of your breast
  • more mammograms
  • ultrasound scans of your breast
  • taking a small sample (biopsy) from your breast using a needle

You will usually get your results within 1 week.

You may feel anxious about having further tests and what this means. Your letter that will tell you how to contact a breast care nurse if you have any questions or would like to discuss the process.

Most people who need further tests will not be diagnosed with breast cancer. But if there are signs of breast cancer, finding it early means treatment is more likely to be successful and less likely that you will need to have a mastectomy (breasts removed).

More information and advice

Further information and useful links for support and advice: