What is breast screening?

The screening procedure

During breast screening (also called mammography) you will undergo an x-ray of both of your breasts. You will have 2 pictures taken of each breast from different angles using a specialised x-ray machine. Your breasts will be held tightly by the machine to make sure that the picture we take is not blurred. Holding the breast tightly also keeps radiation levels low. The procedure is very quick, and only takes around 6 minutes.

Some ladies find breast screening uncomfortable or painful, but any discomfort should last for only a few moments. Women often describe the sensation to be very similar to a blood pressure test. Breast screening takes just a few minutes and your results should be with you in 2-3 weeks. Most women (97%) will have a normal result.

Early detection saves lives

Breast screening lets us see abnormal breast changes at a very early stage. This means we are able to investigate the changes early and achieve the best results if treatment is needed.

Most breast changes found by mammography will not be breast cancer.  If cancer is found through breast screening, we have a much better chance to cure it than if it was found later. If cancer is found the treatment needed is likely to be less intense.

It is normal to feel anxious

Many women feel worried about attending their appointment and waiting for their results. It is our job at the Humberside Breast Screening Service to do what we can to put your mind at rest. We will try to make sure that your visit to the clinic runs smoothly and we work hard to get your results to you quickly.

What to expect during the screening procedure

Possible screening results


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    All Clear

    24 out of 25 women who are screened receive an ‘all clear’ result. Receiving this result means that we have found no abnormal changes within your breasts. You will be due for your next routine scan in 3 years’ time.

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    Technical Recall

    Rarely, we may need to call a woman back for a further mammogram for technical reasons. Receiving this result means we have been unable to assess your scan results, usually due to movement which causes blurring of your x-ray images. It does not mean that we have found any abnormalities in your breast tissue. We will invite you back to the clinic for a further x-ray and will send you the results again as usual.

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    Assessment Clinic

    1 in 25 women will be invited to an assessment clinic for further investigations. If you receive this result, it means we have found an area on your x-ray that needs further tests. It does not mean that you definitely have cancer. 3 out of every 4 women who come to the assessment clinic are found not to have cancer.