Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Scottish women, accounting for over a quarter of female cancer cases.
Breast cancer screening saves around 130 lives each year across Scotland. This is because screening can help catch the disease earlier. In fact, you’re five times more likely to survive breast cancer if it’s caught in its earliest stage.
If you’re aged between 50 and 70, you’ll be offered routine breast screening every three years. If you’re over 70, you can still be screened by contacting your local breast screening unit.
You can be screened at your nearest breast screening unit or at one of the 18 mobile screening units in operation around Scotland.
However, if you’re worried about a lump, or if your breasts look or feel different from what is normal for you, don’t wait to be offered screening – see your GP.
If you would like information about breast screening in a language other than English, or in an alternative format, click here.
Breast screening aims to find breast cancers early. It uses an X-ray test called a mammogram that can spot cancers when they’re too small to see or feel. The screening is carried out by a female health professional, known as a mammographer.
When you arrive, the staff will check your details and ask you about any breast problems you have had. You can also ask any questions you may have.
You'll need to undress to the waist, so it may be easier to wear a skirt or trousers instead of a dress.
First, the mammographer will explain what will happen. She'll then place your breast onto the mammogram machine and lower a plastic plate onto it gently but firmly to flatten it. This helps keep your breast still and ensures a clear X-ray.
The mammographer will usually take two X-rays of each breast – one from above and one from the side.
She'll go behind a screen while the X-rays are taken. You have to keep still for several seconds each time.
The whole process takes just a few minutes.
Results will be sent to you by post, usually within three weeks. Your GP will also get a letter.
About 1 in 25 women will be called back for further tests. Being called back doesn’t mean you have cancer, so try not to worry. Only around 1 in 4 women who are called back for further tests are diagnosed with breast cancer.
If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, treatment options are fully discussed and arrangements are made for referral to a specialist breast team.
Whether or not to have breast screening is, of course, entirely up to you. You may be reading this, feeling nervous or anxious about an upcoming appointment, or unsure whether to even attend.
Here are the answers to some common questions or worries which might help you decide. More information can also be found in this leaflet from NHS HealthScotland :
Some women do find breast screening uncomfortable and it can occasionally be a little bit painful. However, any discomfort will be over very quickly. Research has shown that for most women it's less painful than having a blood test and compares with the feeling of having your blood pressure measured.
Don't worry. Mammographers are used to screening women of all sizes and will do their best to minimise any discomfort.
For women with very large breasts, additional pictures are sometimes needed to ensure that all the breast tissue is included.
Please don’t be! Mammographers are women themselves and do thousands of tests every year – they will not judge you on how your body looks. If it helps to take a friend or partner with you to the test, that’s completely fine.
It’s understandable to feel this way, but if found early enough, breast cancer is treatable. Lots of women do survive it and go on to live long and healthy lives. In fact, you’re five times more likely to survive breast cancer if it’s caught in its earliest stage.
Most experts agree that screening is the best way to catch breast cancer early.
It’s very important to be aware of what’s normal for your breasts and if something changes, you should go to your doctor. Around 40% of lumps are too small to be detected by touch alone, so screening can give you the reassurance of knowing that even the tiniest of lumps are likely to be detected.
This can be true, however it’s important to remember that a woman who attends breast screening has a 93.2% chance of being told all is well. The odds are well and truly in your favour that breast screening will leave you feeling reassured.
The X-rays used in your breast screening use a very low level of radiation. The danger posed by this level of radiation is very small and experts agree that the benefits of the screening outweigh the risks.
If you’ve missed an appointment in the last two years, don’t worry; all you need to do is call your regional screening centre to rearrange a time that suits you best.
You can find your nearest screening centre here:
Remember - if you’re worried about a lump, or if your breasts look or feel different from what is normal for you, see your GP.
If you’ve missed an appointment, don’t worry; all you need to do is call your regional screening centre to rearrange a time that suits you best.
You can find your nearest screening centre here
Remember - if you’re worried about a lump, or if your breasts look or feel different from what is normal for you, see your GP straight away.Ask a question