Frequently asked questions

Lots of women have questions about breast screening; here are some that we get asked frequently. Click each question to read the answer.

Mammography

Preparing for your appointment

Appointment

Timing of Breast Screening

Family History

Breast Symptoms

Can’t find the answer to your question?

Email us at breast.screening@hey.nhs.uk and we’ll be happy to help.


What is a mammogram?

“Mammography” is the name given to the type of x-rays we use for breast screening. More information on what to expect during the breast screening procedure.

Is a mammogram painful?

Most women find the mammography procedure uncomfortable. A few women also find it painful. We screen your breasts by holding each breast tightly between two plastic plates. Your breasts will be held for only a few seconds at a time so the discomfort should not last long. If you are worried about pain during your screening appointment, you can take some painkillers. Take whatever medication you would normally use for a headache before your appointment.

Who conducts my mammogram?

Breast screening is conducted by female mammographers. Mammographers are specially trained to take x-rays for breast screening. In most cases your mammogram will take place in a small room with one mammographer.

How long does a mammogram take?

The mammogram itself takes around 6 minutes. When you attend your appointment, you should also allow time for checking in and getting changed. We would advise you to allow half an hour for your appointment.

Is breast screening safe?

Because mammography uses x-rays, you will be exposed to a tiny amount of radiation during your breast screening appointment. The risk of this harming you in any way is very small, because the radiation dose is so tiny. The benefits of being screened are much greater than the risks from radiation.

Will mammography stop me from getting breast cancer?

No, but it finds cancers when they are too small to see or feel. The cancers found on breast screening tend to be in their very early stages. This means we have a very good chance to treat them successfully.

Where will my mammogram be done?

You will be invited to one of our static screening units or to a mobile van. Our static units are at Castle Hill Hospital, Hull City Centre and Cromwell Road in Grimsby. Our vans move regularly to screen women who do not live near these locations. You will automatically be invited to the site or van which is closest to your GP surgery. If you are not happy with your appointment location, you can contact us and ask to be seen somewhere else.

Can I bring someone with me?

You can bring someone with you to your appointment, but they will have to wait outside while you are screened. Please be aware that there is limited space on our vans. Men are not able to enter the vans to respect the privacy of the other ladies being screened.

When will I get my results?

Your results should be with you within 3 weeks of your screening appointment. We will let you know at your appointment if we are expecting any delays.

What should I wear for my appointment?

To screen you, we need you to undress from the waist up. We therefore advise that you wear separates on the day of your appointment.

I missed my appointment. Can I arrange another one?

We are more than happy for you to arrange a new appointment if you’ve missed one. Find out how you can change your appointment.

Can I change my appointment?

If we’ve made you an appointment that doesn’t suit you we can alter it for you. We can move the time, date and location of your appointment if needed. Find out how to change your appointment.

I was screened not long ago. Should I still attend my appointment?

If you have already been screened within the past few years, we may not need to screen you again yet. Please contact us to find out if we need to screen you again.

Why am I being sent to a different site this time?

Our vans move frequently and it is not possible for us to visit the same locations every year. If you are unable to attend your appointment due to its location, please feel free to change your appointment.

I don’t want to be screened. What should I do?

Whether or not to attend for screening is your decision. If you decide that you do not want to be screened, please telephone us on 01482 622300 as soon as possible. We will be able to cancel your appointment and offer it to someone else. If you cancel your appointment and later decide that you would like to be screened, please telephone us again. We will book you a new appointment at a time and place that suits you.

I am disabled. How do I arrange my appointment?

If you have a disability we may need to alter your appointment. If you have difficulty climbing steep steps, you will need to come to one of our static sites. If you have other mobility problems, you may need more time to find a comfortable position for screening. Please contact us on 01482 622300 once you have received your appointment letter to see what we can do to help you.

I have breast implants. Should I still attend for screening?

If you have had breast implants for cosmetic reasons, you should still attend for screening. This is because you still have breast tissue which needs to be checked. Please telephone us on 01482 622300 as soon as you receive your appointment to let us know about your implants. We will make sure that your mammographer is specialised in screening women with implants.

I have had breast cancer in the past. Do I still need to attend for screening?

If you have had a bilateral mastectomy we will no longer need to screen you. If you still have breast tissue remaining, you will still be at risk of developing another cancer. It is therefore important that you attend for screening when called.

I have had a bilateral mastectomy. Do I still need to attend for screening?

If you have had a bilateral mastectomy, we will not be able to screen you. Please make sure that your GP fills out a cessation form for you so that we do not invite you inappropriately.

Why are women only invited once every 3 years? Is this often enough?

Evidence has shown that screening once every 3 years is more effective than screening once every year. We therefore recommend that women attend for breast screening once every 3 years.

What should I do between breast screens?

Some cancers will develop in the time between breast screening appointments. It is vital that you stay breast aware. Learn what is normal for you and report any changes to your GP straight away. If you have any concerns, get them investigated as soon as possible – do not wait until your next mammogram. Visit our guide to being breast aware for more information.

I am over 70. Can I have an appointment?

If you are over 70 and have not received an appointment in the last 3 years, you can request an appointment. Please fill in a self-invitation form at your GP surgery. This form will be sent to us and we will contact you with an appointment.

I am under 50. Can I have an appointment?

We do not routinely offer screening for women under 50. This is because it is difficult to spot changes in younger women. You should wait for your first screening invite, which will arrive before your 53rd birthday. Some women will receive their first screening appointment when they are aged between 47-49. This is part of an age extension trial that is currently taking place throughout the UK.

I am over 50 but have not received an appointment yet. Why not?

Not every woman receives her invite straight away when she turns 50. We screen ladies based on which GP practice they are registered with. Each practice is screened once every 3 years. You can receive your first screening invite anywhere up to your 53rd birthday.

I have a family history of breast cancer. Do I need to attend screening more often?

If you think that you might be at high risk, you should discuss this with your GP. Find out more about family history.

What should I do if I notice any breast changes?

You should see your GP straight away. Your GP will be able to assess the change and refer you for further assessment if needed. You should not wait for your screening appointment.