What is a breast screen?

A breast screen uses a special machine to look for very small cancers in breasts that can’t be seen or felt by a woman or her doctor. A breast screen is also called a mammogram.

How does a breast screen work?

In a breast screen, each breast is placed onto the plate of the screening machine one at a time. The machine will then press the breast onto the plate so the x - rays are as clear as possible. This may be uncomfortable but it shouldn’t be painful. If it hurts, you can ask for the breast screen to be stopped.

The machine will take at least 2 pictures of each breast – one from the top and one from the side. These pictures will later be read by at least 2 doctors who are specially trained to look for breast cancers on x - rays.

How often do I need to have a breast screen?

Most women aged 50 to 74 should have a breast screen every 2 years. Research shows that having a breast screen every 2 years is the best way to find breast cancers when they are very small and more easily treated.

Some women will need to have a breast screen every year. This might be because they have a strong family history, previous benign breast disease or another reason. We’ll let you know if you need to come for a breast screen every year.

One normal breast screen result doesn’t mean you’ll never get breast cancer. You’ll need to come back regularly to check that a breast cancer hasn’t started to grow since your last screen.

Last updated: February 2022