Breast screening is a test for breast cancers that are too small to see or feel.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in woman. About 1,000 women die of breast cancer every year in Scotland.
Breast screening doesn't prevent cancer, but can detect cancer early and reduce the number of women who die from it.
Who's at risk?
Older women are at greater risk of breast cancer, particularly after the menopause. It can also affect younger women.
There are a number of risk factors for developing breast cancer, including:
You might also be at increased risk if members of your family have had breast cancer, particularly at a young age.
More about the causes of breast cancer
Who'll be screened?
In Scotland, only women between the ages of 50 and 70 are offered breast screening every 3 years.
This is because:
- the risk of developing breast cancer increases with age
- the test is most effective in women who've reached the menopause
If you're over the age of 70, you can continue to be screened but you'll have to contact your local screening centre to make an appointment.
What does it involve?
The most effective way of testing for breast cancer is using breast X-rays (mammograms).
The test takes a few minutes and might feel uncomfortable but shouldn't be painful. You should be able to carry on with your day as normal afterwards.
More about taking the test
Your screening invitation
GP practices only take part in the screening programme every 3 years, so you might not get your first screening invitation until your 53.
Contact your local screening centre if you.
- haven't had your first invitation by your 53rd birthday
- have moved house or GP practice and not had an invitation in the last 3 years
When to contact the screening centre
If you decide to take up the invitation, contact your local screening centre as soon as possible if you:
- want to have someone else with you during the scan, however, men aren't allowed to enter mobile screening units
- have a disability
- need an interpreter or any other help
- have any concerns or want to discuss anything about your appointment
You should also contact the screening centre if you:
- have breast implants
- have had breast cancer
- have had a mammogram within the last 6 months
Choosing not to be screened
If you decide not to take the test, you should let the screening centre know in plenty of time.
You'll be invited for screening again in 3 years. If you don't want to be invited again, please ask the screening centre for a disclaimer form so that your name can be removed from the system.
If you've completed a disclaimer or decided not to be screened at this time, but change your mind later, you can arrange an appointment by contacting your local screening centre.