Breast screening is done to detect small breast cancers they cannot be felt by you or your doctor. This means that treatment is likely to be simpler and more successful. Screening mammogram uses an X-ray to check for changes in your breasts.
The NHS runs a national breast screening programme for women in the UK. You can also have a mammogram at an independent or private clinic.
In the UK, all women aged 50 to 70 are offered breast screening every three years. In England, the NHS screening programme is being extended to include women aged 47 to 73.
A mammogram will be carried out by a radiographer – a healthcare professional who specialises in taking X-rays. Before your mammogram, they will ask you about your symptoms and history of breast disease (including cancer).
The mammogram takes two views of your breasts, one from above and one from the side. Your breasts are X-rayed one at a time. The radiographer will help you flatten your breast between two X-ray plates. The plates press your breast firmly to take the X-ray. Flattening your breasts in this way makes the picture clearer. Your breasts are only pressed for a few seconds, but you may find this uncomfortable. You may feel a bit sore for a few days afterwards too.
If your mammogram picks up anything abnormal, you will be asked to go to a breast assessment clinic for more tests. Around four in every 100 women are called back for more tests after having a mammogram.