The NHS Breast screening programme invites all women between 50 and 70 years old to have a special breast X-ray or mammogram every three years to look for early breast cancer which is not yet producing an obvious breast lump. Screening for breast cancer in this age group has been shown to save lives.
Screening is usually done at a convenient location e.g. a local supermarket car park.
About a fifth of the women who have mammograms have to go for further tests to clarify the findings, although very few of them are diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of the process.
Mammograms can be uncomfortable or even painful but usually just at the time of the test. Like all XRs the balance has to be weighed up between the possible risks of radiation to your health and the benefits of early disease detection. Excess radiation has actually been shown to cause breast cancer although this is very rare but that is why screening is limited to women in this age group where the chance of detecting treatable cancer is greatest.