Breast cancer awareness month: screening is essential and saves lives


If you have an appointment for breast screening, it is important that you attend. It is unlikely that we will find any cancer, but catching any sign of cancer early is key so that it can be treated. To find out more, watch our short, animated video (translations are available on our cancer alliance patient information web page).

Breast screening facts

  • Breast cancer screening saves the lives of around 1,300 women every year in the UK and around 21,000 cancers are detected via this method.
  • The NHS in England carries out around 2.1m breast cancer screens each year in hospitals and mobile screening vans, usually in convenient community locations such as supermarket car parks.
  • Screening aims to find breast cancers at an early stage when they are too small to see or feel because when they are picked up early, treatment is much more likely to be successful.
  • The actual screening x-rays (mammograms) take only a few minutes to perform and help find breast cancers at an early stage when they are too small to see or feel.
  • Services are running and are safe from Covid.

 Breast screening eligibility

  • Women are offered breast screening on the NHS between the ages of 50 and up to their 71st birthday and are offered their first appointment before their 53rd birthday
  • Breast screening is also for some trans or non-binary people. Talk to your GP or Gender Identity Clinic about this. 
  • Women who are over the age of 70 can contact their local breast screening centre for screening once every 3 years.
  • Women are offered screening from the age of 50 years as 80% of breast cancers (4 out of 5) are diagnosed in women aged over 50.

Check your breasts

But don’t just wait until your next screening appointment; anyone who has noticed any abnormal changes to their breasts should contact their GP as soon as possible.

The NHS believes people of all ages should be aware of their breast health. If you are concerned you should not hesitate to contact your GP.

Being ‘breast aware’ means getting to know how your breasts look and feel at different times and telling your doctor straight away if you notice any unusual changes. It is important that you continue to look at and check your breasts regularly, even if you have just had a mammogram. 

We encourage people to take a ‘TLC approach’:

  • TOUCH your breasts. Can you feel anything unusual?
  • LOOK for changes. Is there any change in shape or texture?
  • CHECK anything unusual with your doctor. 

Remember, if you have symptoms that you are worried about, such as a lump or discharge, please contact your GP as soon as possible.

Men can get breast cancer too

Although rare, it is possible for men to get breast cancer too. About 1 in 100 (about 1%) of breast cancer cases in the UK are in males.

The single biggest risk factor for male breast cancer is getting older. Most breast cancers are diagnosed in men between the ages of 60 and 70.

Resources

More information, including leaflets in a range of languages, is available on the London Breast Screening webpages. Remember to watch our breast screening video and to find out more about the symptoms of breast cancer, visit the NHS breast cancer web pages.