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What is Breast Screening and Why Do We Do It?

A Breast Screening machine in operation

Breast Screening (Mammography) is an x-ray examination of the breasts and is a method of finding breast cancer at a very early stage.Your whole visit to the breast screening unit should take about half an hour.

At your screening appointment a female mammographer will explain breast screening to you and ask you a few questions. She will then take the x-ray by compressing your breasts, one at a time between two special x-ray plates. 
The compression only lasts a few seconds and there is no evidence this harms the breast. Compression is needed to keep the breast still, in order to get the clearest picture with the lowest amount of radiation.

Some women find mammography uncomfortable and some find it painful as the breasts have to be held firmly in position and pressed to take a good x-ray. If you do experience pain it usually only lasts as long as the mammogram although it may continue for some time in a small number of women.

Please do not use talcum powder or spray-on deodorant or body creams on the day you go for breast screening as this may affect the quality of your mammogram.

Why We Screen

One in nine women will develop breast cancer at some time in their life. 80% of breast cancers occur in women over 50. The risk of breast cancer rises as women get older. This is why the breast screening programme only targets women in this age group.

Breast Screening can help to find small changes in the breast before there are any other signs or symptoms. If changes are found at an early stage, there is a good chance of a successful recovery.

The NHS Breast Screening Programme is an effective part of the UK's efforts to reduce the death toll from breast cancer. The latest research shows the NHS Breast Screening Programme is now saving 1400 lives every year in England.

 

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