All women registered with a GP will receive their first invitation to have a mammogram some time between their 50th and 53rd birthdays. In England, extending the screening age range will mean that every woman registered with a GP will be offered their first breast screening appointment by their 50th birthday. Invitations are then sent every three years until a woman reaches her 70th birthday (73rd birthday once the age range is extended in England).
You will get a leaflet with your invitation letter that explains what will happen. Leaflets are also available in large print and are translated into many languages. If you don’t speak or understand English well, the unit can arrange an interpreter for you. Some units will allow a female family member or friend to translate information for you, but others prefer that you use a female interpreter.
If you have any worrying breast symptoms while waiting for a breast screening appointment, contact your GP, who can refer you to the breast clinic if necessary.
When you receive your invitation from your local breast screening unit, you will be given a date, time and place to attend. There are specialised screening units across the country, which can either be mobile (like a large van), hospital-based or permanently based in a convenient place such as a shopping centre. If the appointment is inconvenient for you, you can phone the breast screening unit and they will arrange an alternative appointment. The phone number for the breast screening unit will be on the letter.
A visit to a breast screening unit usually takes about 30 minutes. You’ll be met and welcomed by a receptionist or a female radiographer who will check your personal details (name, age and address). The radiographer will ask you some questions about your general health and whether you’ve had any previous breast problems.
The radiographer will explain how the mammograms are taken and can answer any questions that you might have about breast screening. If you’re happy to go ahead, you will then go into the mammography room to have your mammogram.