Breast screening patient information
Find out what to expect from your breast screening appointment.
We can send text reminders 10 days and then 48 hours before your appointment if you provide us with your mobile number. You can do this by calling 020 3311 1288 or via our website: https://www.london-breastscreening.org.uk/. If you have been screened before we may already have a mobile number for you. Please let us know if this has changed or if you do not want to receive a text.
Before your appointment
You are welcome to bring a relative or close friend with you to your appointment. All mammographers are female. If a patient sees a male doctor in the assessment clinic, he will be assisted by a female.
We recommend that you to wear something that allows you to easily undress from the waist upwards, such as a skirt and top or trousers. Please avoid using spray deodorant and talcum powder on the day of your appointment.
Please bring with you your appointment letter and a cardigan or shawl to put over your shoulders. If you can't speak English, please come with someone who can and bring some form of ID.
Before your appointment, please call 020 3758 2024 if you have had a mammogram in the past six months, have breast implants, are pregnant or breastfeeding, require help standing, or if you have other special needs.
During your appointment
When you arrive, check in at the reception desk. Waiting times are usually short and most women are seen within 15 minutes of their stated appointment time.
Please note that medical students may be present for some appointments. If you do not wish to have them in the room please let the nurse or doctor know and the students will be asked to step outside.
You should allow an hour for your appointment, but most women will be ready to leave within 30 minutes. On arrival at the breast screening unit, you will be met by a radiographer who will confirm your appointment.
A radiographer will show you to a private cubicle and ask you to undress from the waist up. We recommend that you wear separates, i.e. a top and a skirt or trousers, which will enable you to do this more easily. Please note that we do not routinely provide gowns, so suggest that you bring a cardigan or shawl to put over your shoulders until you have your mammogram. You will be able to leave your clothes and personal items safely in the cubicle whilst you are having your mammogram.
When you are ready, the radiographer will show you into the screening room and explain how the mammogram is taken. She will also answer any questions you may have. A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast and is performed by a specially trained radiographer. During the mammogram, each breast is compressed in turn between two small flat plates attached to the x-ray machine. Two x-rays of each breast are taken, one from above and one from the side. Compression is necessary to obtain the best images and you may find this uncomfortable. Our radiographers are trained to ensure that the minimum pressure is used and is applied for only a few seconds. The whole procedure should take less than five minutes.
Once the mammogram has been taken, you will be shown back to the cubicle to get dressed. Before leaving the unit you will be given an information sheet which tells you when you can expect to receive your results and also how you can be breast aware between your screening appointments.
After your appointment
The results will be sent to you and your GP within two to three weeks of the appointment. If your results are normal, we will automatically invite you to be screened again in three years’ time. If the results are uncertain, you will be invited to attend the assessment clinic because we need to carry out further tests before we can decide on the result of your breast screening images. For the majority of women asked to return to the assessment clinic, nothing of concern will be found. However, it is important that you attend your appointment so that any abnormalities can be identified and treated quickly.
Some women are invited to attend the assessment clinic for a follow-up appointment. What happens during your appointment will depend on the tests required, but you will probably have some more mammograms taken, be examined by a doctor and then have an ultrasound scan of the breast. An ultrasound scan uses sound waves to give a picture of the breast tissue. It is painless, harmless and does not involve any x-rays. Often this further investigation will confirm that everything is normal.
If there is still some uncertainty, the doctor will want to remove a small sample of breast tissue (known as a ‘biopsy’) for examination in the laboratory. A local anaesthetic is given prior to inserting a special needle in the breast and removing a small section of tissue. This may cause some temporary pain and bruising, which can be relieved by applying an ice pack to the area or by taking paracetamol. The length of your appointment will depend on the tests required, but you may be with us for up to four hours. You are welcome to bring a friend or family member with you, but they will not be able to stay in the room with you if you need to have further x-rays. If possible, we will give you the results of your tests on the same day. However, if you have a biopsy, the tissue will need to be examined in the laboratory and we will give you an appointment to return to the clinic, usually within one week, for your results.
Any x-rays you have, including mammograms, will expose you to a small amount of radiation. Mammograms only require a very low dose of x-rays, and any risk is greatly outweighed by the benefits of early breast cancer detection.
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