What is the NHS Breast Screening Programme?
Breast screening is currently offered to women aged 50 to 70 years, however, the NHS is in the process of extending the programme as a trial, offering screening to some women aged 47 to 49 years and 71 to 73 years. Women will first be invited for screening between their 50th and 53rd birthday, although in some areas they may be invited from between the age of 47 – 49 years as part of the trial extension trial.
What happens if I am over 70 years of age?
Women over the age of 70 are not automatically invited for screening. However, you are still encouraged to go for screening every three years. You can contact the Lincolnshire breast screening office to make an appointment.
What is breast screening?
Breast screening is an x-ray examination of the breasts (mammogram). Mammograms can show breast cancers at an early stage, when they are too small for you or your doctor to see or feel. A mammogram only takes a short time, it involves a small amount of radiation however the benefits of detecting an early cancer far outweigh any risk involved.
Where do I go for breast screening?
In Lincolnshire we have two mobile units that tour the county and some women will be called to these for screening. Other women will be called to the screening clinics that are held at either Lincoln County Hospital, Pilgrim Hospital, Boston or Grantham and District Hospital. Current screening locations for our mobile units are:
- Horncastle, Stanhope Hall
- Skegness Hospital
- Ruskington Medical Practice
- County Hospital, Louth
- Spalding, Johnson Hospital
- Caistor Health Centre
- Market Rasen, The Festival Hall
- Long Sutton Medical Centre
- Mablethorpe, Marisco Medical Practice
- John Coupland Hospital, Gainsborough
- Hockmeyer’s Garage, Sleaford
- Community Centre, Woodhall Spa
Appointment date, time and venue: Your invitation letter will give details of when and where we would like you to attend for screening. However, if any of the details are not convenient please contact the breast screening office on 01522 573999 or email them at ulh-tr.BreastScreening@nhs.net and they will be happy to offer you an alternative appointment at any of the other screening clinics that are available.
What exactly happens during breast screening?
Feel free at any time to ask questions. The procedure will be undertaken by a female mammographer. She will firstly confirm your details with you, name, date of birth etc. She will then ask you to undress from the waist up. It is advisable to wear separates. We also ask that you do not use talcum powder or spray-on deodorant on the day you go for breast screening as this may show on the mammogram and give a false reading. The mammographer will explain mammography to you and will ask you a few questions, for example, have you ever had a mammogram before, have you ever had any breast problems, do you currently have any breast problems. Mammography only takes a few minutes and your breasts are only pressed between the two plates for a few seconds each. There is no evidence that this procedure harms the breast.
Does mammography hurt?
Some women may 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 for as long as the mammogram, although it may continue for some in a small number of women. You have the right at any stage of the examination to ask the mammographer to stop the procedure.
Who reads the mammogram?
Your mammogram is read twice, by a combination of two consultant radiologists (a senior doctor highly trained in the reading of x-rays) or a consultant radiologist and a consultant mammographer or a specially trained radiographer film reader. There are occasions when these specialists decide that your mammogram cannot be read because it is not of high enough technical quality. You will be sent a letter explaining this and you will be asked to attend again for repeat x-rays. This does not mean that there is anything wrong with you but simply that a better quality image is required.
When do I get my results?
Our service adheres to the national standards and targets for the NHSBSP and you should receive your result within two weeks of your appointment.
What happens if I have had mammograms taken elsewhere in the past?
Your mammographer will ask you if you have ever had previous mammograms. If you have then every effort will be made to locate these x-rays prior to your films being reported so that comparisons can be made between the x-rays. Therefore, if you are able to give us accurate information on where and when you had mammograms taken this will speed up the process of locating them.
What does it mean if I am called back to an assessment clinic (second stage screening)?
Some women are called back because the appearance of the x-ray suggests that more tests are needed. You will be invited to a specialist breast screening assessment clinic at the Lincoln County Hospital. You will be sent an appointment letter with a date, time and venue asking you to attend for second stage screening. This letter will also offer you the telephone number of a breast care nurse should you require any further information regarding why you have been recalled. If the appointment date, time or venue is not convenient all you have to do is ring the screening office on 01522 573999 to alter your appointment.
A recall appointment is a common occurrence and most ladies that have further checks can be reassured that their breasts are normal. They will be discharged from the assessment process and we will call them back again in three years’ time as part of the routine screening process.
When you attend for an assessment appointment it is nice for someone to be with you, but not essential. Further tests will be carried out which may consist of any, or all, of the following: mammography (x-rays), ultrasound and needle biopsy tests. In the majority of ladies these tests will have provided all the information necessary to conclude your assessment visit. However, on occasions you may be asked to attend on another day for further tests to be carried out.
What if I need treatment?
If you are recalled and subsequently require treatment a specialist team will look after you. They will make sure that you get a high quality of care and treatment at all times.
How reliable is breast screening?
Mammography is the most reliable way of detecting breast cancer early, but like other screening tests, it is not perfect. For example:
- Some cancers are very difficult to see on the x-ray
- Some cancers, even though they are there, cannot be seen on the x-ray at all
- The person reading the x-ray may miss the cancer (this will happen occasionally, no matter how experienced the reader is)
Does breast screening prevent breast cancer?
No, breast screening only helps find breast cancer if it is already there. You should be aware of any changes in your breasts because breast cancer can develop at any time. Some women will develop breast cancer before their first mammogram or between mammograms.
What happens to your x-rays after screening?
Our breast screening service will keep your analogue mammograms for at least eight years, longer if necessary. By 2015 United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) had replaced all its analogue mammography equipment with new state of the art digital mammography x-ray units. Digital mammograms are retained indefinitely. We can compare your latest mammogram with the previous ones you have had.
There is a simple five-point breast awareness code that all women should remember:
- Know what is normal for you
- Look at and feel your breasts
- Know what changes to look for (lumps, pain, discharge from the nipple or anything else unusual)
- Tell your doctor about any changes immediately
- Go for breast screening every three years if you are over 50
There are many reasons for changes in your breasts. Most of them are harmless but you should get any changes checked.
Ms Heather Tod, Breast Modality Lead
Ms Alysa Page, Breast Screening Programme Manager
Lincolnshire Breast Screening Service
4th Floor Maternity Wing
Lincoln County Hospital
Lincoln LN2 5QY
Text Message Reminders
Our service offers a text message appointment reminder service. If you wish to receive a text message reminder regarding your appointment we will require your mobile telephone number. Please contact us to provide us with your details. If we have your mobile telephone number as a point of contact but do not wish to receive text messages please let us know and we can note this in your information.
More information regarding breast screening can be found on the NHS Choices website: www.nhs.uk and going to the Screening page where information regarding all screening programmes can be found.