The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust




F.A.Q Frequently Asked Questions

  •  Why does the NHS offer breast screening?

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

However, breast screening does have some risks. Some women who have screening will be diagnosed and treated for breast cancer that would never otherwise been found or caused them any harm.

  • What is breast screening?

Breast screening uses an x-ray test called a mammogram to check the breast for signs of cancer. It can spot cancers that are too small to see or feel.

  • Why have I been invited for breast screening?

All women aged 50 to 70 are invited for breast screening every 3 years. Some older or younger women are also being invited as part of a study of screening in different age groups.

If you are over 70, you are still at risk of breast cancer although you will no longer automatically get screening invitations after you are 70; you can still have breast screening every 3 years .You will need to ask your local breast screening unit for an appointment.

  • What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer starts when cells in the breast begin to grow in an uncontrolled way and build up to form a lump (also known as a tumour). As the cancer grows, cells can spread to other parts of the body and this can be life threatening.

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK. About 12,000 women in the UK die of breast cancer every year. Survival from the disease has been improving over time and now about 3 out of 4 women diagnosed with breast cancer are alive 10 years later.

Your risk of getting breast cancer goes up as you get older. About 4 out of 5 breast cancers are found in women over 50 years old .Most women with breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease. 

  • What does a mammogram feel like?

Having a mammogram can be uncomfortable and some women find it painful, usually any pain passes quickly 

  • What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

If you get to know how your breast normally looks and feels, you will be more likely to spot any changes that could be signs of breast cancer. This is important even if you have been for breast screening. look out for : a lump or thickening in your breast or armpit, changes to the sin of your breast , changes in the shape , size or  feel of your breast, nipple changes, pain in your breast, any other unusual or persistent changes to your breasts.

  • What happens to my mammograms after screening?

The NHS Breast screening programme will keep your mammograms for at least 8 years. These are saved securely. The programme regularly checks records to make sure the service as good as possible. Staff on other parts of the health service may need to see your records for this, but your records will only be shared with people who need to see them. We will review your previous screening results if you are diagnosed with breast cancer between screening appointments. You can see the results of this review if you wish 

  • What will happen if I choose to have breast screening?

When you arrive at the breast screening unit, the staff will check your details and ask you about any breast problems you have had. If you have questions, please ask. Mammograms are carried out by women called mammographers to have a mammogram; you need to undress to the waist. So it may be easier to wear a skirt or trousers instead of a dress. The mammographer will usually will always take 2 x-rays of each breast-one from the side and one from above. She will go behind a screen while all the x-rays are taken; you have to keep still for several seconds each time. The whole appointment takes less than half an hour and the mammogram only takes a few minutes.