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Breast Screening in the UK

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 15 Apr 2014 | comments*Discuss
Breast Cancer breast Screening breasts

In the United Kingdom, the NHS Breast Screening Programme provides mammograms for women between the ages of 50 and 70, who are registered with a GP, every three years. If a woman has a family history of breast cancer and is under the age of 50, she should discuss her specific case with her GP. Once a woman reaches 70 years of age she is encouraged to make her own mammogram appointments. However, mammograms can not catch all instances of breast cancer, so external exams are also recommended.

NHS Breast Screening Programme

Approximately 1.5 million women are screened for breast cancer every year through the NHS Breast Screening Programme. All women between 50 and 70 who are registered with a GP are eligible for this programme, however not all women will be screened exactly at age 50 because the programme runs on a three year cycle by GP surgeries. This means though that every woman should be screened before age 53. Over 80 breast screening units exist across the UK in locations including hospitals, mobile bases and even shopping centres.

In the future the programme hopes to extend the age range of women involved to include all women between the ages of 47 and 73. At the moment, women under the age of 50 concerned about their risk of breast cancer can be referred to a hospital breast clinic but are not offered routine screenings under the Breast Screening Programme.

Private Mammogram Services

Private mammogram services are also available in the UK, though they are not usually advised for women under the age of 40 unless there is a very specific reason to suspect that they are needed. For women who do choose to pay for private breast screening, a mammogram every one to two years is the advised interval. For more information about private mammogram services in a specific area, consult a local GP or other medical professionals.

External Breast Exams

External breast exams, whether they are carried out by a medical professional or by one’s self, are an important part of screening for breast cancer. It is estimated that mammograms only catch between 85% to 90% of breast cancers, which means that external exams remain an important part of detecting early changes in the breasts. All GPs and medical professionals at women’s health clinics should be able to carry out clinic breast exams, and monthly self exams will help women get to know their own breasts and recognize changes in the look or feel of them as soon as they occur. If changes are noticed, women should notify their GP as soon as possible.

Breast screening in the UK is now routinely offered via mammogram services to women between the ages of 50 and 70 through the NHS Breast Screening Programme. Private mammogram services are also available to women who prefer mammograms more frequently or at a younger age, and clinical and self breast exams can also help detect early signs of breast cancer. For more information about breast screening in a specific area or for a specific individual, contact a local medical professional.

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