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Frequently asked questions

Why go for breast screening?

The purpose of screening is to find breast changes which need investigation. Screening cannot tell which changes are caused by breast cancer, but it can show lumps which are too small to be felt and cannot be found in any other way. These changes can then be investigated.

This is important because breast cancer can be more successfully treated if it is found early, when it is very small. Early detection can mean simple treatment.

Where do I go?

You will have been invited to attend the mobile screening van which is situated at a local health centre. There are several small steps leading to the entrance, but if you cannot manage these, or have difficulty in standing, you may attend the assessment centre at Birmingham Women's Hospital.

To change your appointment, please contact:

Is there anything I should do before I go?

It's a good idea to wear trousers, or a skirt, and top, rather that a dress, because you will be asked to undress from the waist up.

Please do not use deodorants, talcum powder, creams or perfumed sprays on your breast or under your arms as these will affect the X-ray image.

What will happen while I'm there?

If you keep to your appointment time, a visit to the unit will take about 20 minutes. A radiographer will welcome you and explain the procedure to you. She will then ask you some questions about your health. Please feel free to ask any questions you may have.

You will be shown to a cubicle and asked to remove your clothing, from the waist up. Your radiographer will then show you how to stand in the correct position for the X-ray.

Will it hurt?

Your breasts will be placed between two plastic plates so that all the breast can be seen. This is very quick and simple, but it may feel uncomfortable because to get a good picture the breast needs to be firmly pressed against the X-ray plate.

What happens after the X-ray?

You will receive a letter detailing your results as soon as they are available. Your GP will also be informed of the result, however most women receive a normal result.

Some women will need to have the test repeated for technical reasons before the results can be given. For example, there may have been a problem with the X-ray film.

A few women will be called back because the appearance of the X-rays suggests that the breasts need further examination. Do not be surprised if you are called back and then told here is nothing to worry about.

If it is found that you need further specialist treatment, you will be looked after by a team of hospital staff, who will be working to ensure that you are given the best of care at all times.

How often will I be screened?

You will be invited to go for a screening test about every three years. If, between screening, you notice any changes in your breasts or anything that worries you, such as lumps or swelling in the armpit or above the breast, arrange to see your doctor straight away.

How do I contact the breast screening office?

Please keep your appointment. If you have any difficulties, please contact the breast screening office.

Last reviewed: 03 January 2024