May 142019

The breast screening programme in Scotland invites all women between the ages of 50 and 70 years for mammograms approximately every 3 years.

Patients aged over 70 will not receive an invitation as standard, but you are still welcome to attend every 3 years and can make an appointment by ringing the centre on 0131 537 7400.

When you get your appointment depends on which practice you are registered with, and the eligible women registered at Bruntsfield are being invited for screening at Ardmillan House on Springwell Terrace during June 2019.

What happens at your appointment

Breast cancer screening involves an X-ray examination called a mammogram, which tries to detect cancer before it causes symptoms or findings on examination. The earlier a cancer is diagnosed the easier it is to treat.

The breast screening appointment takes about 10 minutes from start to finish. The mammogram itself takes barely a minute, and they are always carried out by female health professionals who will try to make you feel as comfortable as possible.

The female mammographer will position one breast at a time between two flat plates. The machine will take two X-rays of each breast. You have to stay as still as possible while the image is being taken. Having your breasts pressed flat between the plates can be uncomfortable, and some women find it painful. You can say stop at any point if you feel too much discomfort. You will be asked to undress from the waist up, so you may find it helpful to wear trousers or a skirt.

Breast Screening results

The results of your scan will be sent to you within three weeks.

The majority of women will receive a letter saying their mammograms were normal and if they are under 70 years old that they will be recalled again in 3 year. A very small number of women will need a “technical recall”. That is when the original image wasn’t clear enough to read and needs to be repeated. This can happen if not all the breast tissue was imaged, or the breast tissue was moved during the mammogram.

Around 1 in 20 women will be invited to the second stage of screening, which is to attend an appointment for further tests. This means your mammogram may be showing an area the doctors would like to image more clearly, with further mammograms and/or an ultrasound scan. Some women will also need a biopsy. A biopsy is when a small sample of tissue is removed.

Breast Screening risks

You may be concerned about your exposure to X-rays. Having mammograms every three years for 20 years very slightly increases the chance of getting cancer over a woman’s lifetime.

Mammograms don’t find all cancers and changes can happen between screenings. This is why it’s important to keep checking your breasts for any changes regularly between screenings.

You could be diagnosed with and treated for a cancer that may not spread and may not cause you harm. Unfortunately, doctors can’t always tell whether or not the cancer will spread in the future and so you may have to make some difficult decisions about going forward with treatment. While treatments save lives, they can also cause serious long-term side effects. If there are choices about your treatment then you’ll receive information and support to help you decide what is right for you.

Breast cancer facts

  • Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK with over 55,000 women diagnosed each year, including around 4,700 in Scotland
  • 1 in 8 women in Scotland will be diagnosed with it during their lifetime
  • Around 5 out of 6 women diagnosed in the UK today will be alive in 5 years’ time, compared to 3 out of 6 women 40 years ago
  • However nearly 1,000 women still die of breast cancer every month in the UK, including around 80 women in Scotland

Be breast aware

Woman of all ages should be breast aware and regularly check their breasts for changes. Although lumps in your breast or armpit may be harmless, you should get them checked by the GP.

Other symptoms to look out for are:

  • A lump, area of thickened tissue or bumps in either breast.
  • A change in the size or shape of one or both breasts.
  • A lump or swelling in either of your armpits.
  • Skin that appears like orange peel.
  • Crusting on or around the nipple.
  • A leaking nipple which may or may not be streaked with blood.
  • Dimples or skin that’s become drawn in.
  • A nipple that’s become turned in.

Further information

Much of this, and further information is available in the NHS Scotland information booklet on Breast screening:

There are also several websites with further information on the Scottish breast screening programme and on breast cancer: