Breast Screening & Assessment Service

Breast screening FAQs

This page brings you some of the most frequently asked questions about breast screening, together with answers to those questions.


What is a mammogram?Show [+]Hide [-]

A mammogram is an x-ray of the breasts. It is a method of finding breast cancer at a very early stage.

A female mammographer will compress your breasts - one at a time - between two x-ray plates to get clear images. The compression only lasts a few seconds and does not cause any harm to the breasts.

Are mammograms safe?Show [+]Hide [-]

Any x-ray involves radiation but mammograms only require a very low dose. It is approximately the same dose a person receives by flying from London to Australia and back. The risk that such a low dose could cause a cancer is far outweighed by the benefits of early detection of breast cancer.

Can I bring someone with me? Show [+]Hide [-]

Yes, you can bring someone with you. But please be aware that we have limited space to wait, especially at the mobile screening units.

Can I change the date and time of my appointment?Show [+]Hide [-]

Yes. Please call us on 0191 282 0202 to rearrange for a more suitable date/time/location.

Does a mammogram hurt?Show [+]Hide [-]

During the mammogram, the breast is tightly squeezed between two plates, which some women do find uncomfortable or even painful. However, this is necessary to get a clear image and only lasts for a few seconds.

If you do experience pain, this usually disappears shortly afterwards. A small number of women may experience this pain for longer.

Does breast screening prevent breast cancer?Show [+]Hide [-]

No. Routine breast screening can help to find breast cancer before there are any other signs or symptoms. Early detection can mean treatment is simpler and has a better chance of success.

How long will the mammogram take? Show [+]Hide [-]

Your mammogram will only take a few minutes.

I am 50 why have I not received my appointment?Show [+]Hide [-]

Women aged between 50 and 70 years old are routinely invited for breast screening every three years. Provided women are registered with a GP, they will automatically be invited before their 53rd birthday.

We invite each GP practice in turn for screening, so women will not necessarily get their invitation in the year that they turn 50. If you have not heard from us by your 53rd birthday, please call us on tel: 0191 282 0202.

I am 75 can I have an appointment? Show [+]Hide [-]

Yes. Women over 70 years old are not automatically invited to attend breast screening, however they are still entitled to be screened. Women over 70 will need to call the screening service every three years to book their appointment.

I am disabled, how do I arrange my screening appointment?Show [+]Hide [-]

Please call us so we can discuss your screening appointment. If you require extra assistance we will be able to allocate more time for your appointment. Our phone number is tel: 0191 282 0202.

I am under 50 can I have an appointment? Show [+]Hide [-]

The Breast Screening Programme does not currently screen women under-50. We are currently expanding the age range of women screened from 50-70 years to 47-73 years. This may be completed by 2018 following the publication of the results of a 'randomised age trial'.

Some women who have a family history of breast cancer are screened earlier than 50 years old. If you have a family history of breast cancer, please seek advice from your GP.

I don’t want to be screened, what do I do?Show [+]Hide [-]

We respect your decision not to be screened, but we do encourage all women to attend their screening appointments.

If you wish to cancel your appointment, please call us on tel: 0191 282 0202 so the time slot can be freed up for someone else to use.

If you change your mind at any point in the future, please call us and we will be happy to make you a new appointment.

I have a breast lump how do I make an appointment?Show [+]Hide [-]

If you are concerned about any changes with your breasts or have any symptoms, seek advice from your GP straight away. Do not wait until your routine screening appointment.

If your GP feels you would benefit from further investigation, you will be referred to the RVI or to a breast outpatient clinic at your local hospital.

If you have symptoms, you need to be referred to us by your GP. You cannot book an appointment with us without a referral from your GP.

I have a family history of breast cancer. Do I need to have mammograms more often? Show [+]Hide [-]

If you are worried about a family history of breast cancer you should discuss this with your GP. Your GP can advise you further and may refer you to a family history clinic.

I have been invited to have a mammogram, but I have had a mammogram within the last year, do I still need to come?Show [+]Hide [-]

Please call us on tel: 0191 282 0202 and we will be able to discuss this with you.

I have had breast cancer in the past do I still need to come?Show [+]Hide [-]

If you have had breast cancer in the past and you are still under the care of your breast care team, they will arrange a yearly mammogram for you. It is always best to stay with the mammograms that they arrange for you.

If you are unsure about which appointment to attend, please call us on tel: 0191 282 0202.

I have implants can I still have a mammogram? Show [+]Hide [-]

Yes. The implant will show as a large white area on the mammogram. This may hide some of the breast tissue and will not be shown on the x-ray. The film readers are only able to report on breast tissue they can see on the images.

Both the static site at the RVI and our mobile units have digital machines, which means women with implants can now be screened on the mobile units.

I have moved house what happens to my screening appointment?Show [+]Hide [-]

As long as you have registered with a GP, you will be screened at the same time as that practice. If it is longer than three years since your last mammogram, you will be invited before the rest of the surgery.

If you are concerned that you may have missed your mammogram since moving house, please call us on tel: 0191 282 0202 and we can check this for you.

I missed my appointment how do I get another one?Show [+]Hide [-]

If you have missed your appointment, please call the breast screening office on tel: 0191 282 0202. We will be able to book you a new appointment.

What shall I wear for my appointment? Show [+]Hide [-]

As you are required to undress to the waist, it is easier to wear a skirt or trousers, and a top rather than a dress.

Unfortunately, we are not able to provide service users with gowns for their breast screening appointments. As the appointments are normally very quick, it would mean the gown was only being used for a matter of minutes. The gown could not then be used by someone else so would have to be laundered, creating a large expense to the screening service.

Some women can feel embarrassed or self-conscious, so some feel more comfortable wearing a vest top that they can pull up between x-rays or a cardigan that can be worn over the shoulders. This is not essential and is purely for your own comfort.

Do not use talcum powder or spray-on-deodorant on the day you go for breast screening. This may show up as white specks on your x-ray.

What should I do between breast screens? Show [+]Hide [-]

Breast cancer can occur at any time, so it is important to stay breast aware between mammograms. This means knowing what is normal for you so you are able to notice any changes that may occur.

If you notice any changes in your breasts that you are concerned about, go to see your GP immediately. Do not wait until your next mammogram.

What should I do if I notice any breast changes?Show [+]Hide [-]

If you notice any changes in your breasts that you are concerned about, go to see your GP immediately. Do not wait until your next mammogram.

When do I get my results? Show [+]Hide [-]

You should get your results two to three weeks after your mammogram. They will be posted out to your home address.

Where will the mammogram be done? Show [+]Hide [-]

We have:

The mobile units move around the local area, depending on which GP surgery's patients we are screening. The trailers are normally parked in a location that is easy to find such as a local supermarket car park or at a leisure centre. Trailers will stay at a particular site for a few months while we screen the patients from GP surgeries in that area.

You should be invited to a location that is close to your GP practice. However, if this is inconvenient, please call the Breast Screening Service to rearrange on tel: 0191 282 0202.

Who will take my mammogram? Show [+]Hide [-]

You will be seen by a female mammographer who will take your mammogram.

Why have I been sent to a different site this time?Show [+]Hide [-]

Sometimes the sites change due to availability. We try to keep the location as convenient for you as possible, however if you wish to change your appointment please call us on tel: 0191 282 0202.

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