About one in eight women in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. There’s a good chance of recovery if it’s detected in its early stages. Breast screening aims to find breast cancers early. It uses an X-ray test called a mammogram that may be able to identify breast cancers when they are too small to see or feel.
As the likelihood of getting breast cancer increases with age, women who are aged 50-70 and registered with a GP are automatically invited for breast cancer screening every three years.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING BREAST SCREENING?
Breast screening is carried out at special clinics or mobile breast screening units. The procedure is carried out by female members of staff who take mammograms.
During screening, a woman’s breasts will be X-rayed one at a time. The breast is placed on the X-ray machine and gently but firmly compressed with a clear plate. Two X-rays are taken of each breast at different angles. Patients may then leave the screening unit and will receive a latter with their results within two weeks of the examination.
ARE THERE ANY CONCERNS WITH SCREENING?
The vast majority of patients who undergo screening do not have breast cancers diagnosed, but a significant number of women who have screening may be recalled for further tests and investigations before being reassured that this is the case. One of the primary areas of concern about screening is that it can cause distress for these patients whilst they are waiting for or undergoing further tests before being reassured.
Another concern which has been raised is that many patients who have cancers or pre-cancerous cell changes diagnosed through screening may never have had their lives put at risk by their cancer. Generally speaking, cancers diagnosed through screening tend to be small, early cancers or pre-cancerous and have an excellent prognosis and survival. This is clearly good news for the patient, but despite this they may have to undergo extensive treatment including surgery, radiotherapy and anti-hormonal tablet therapy all of which have potential risks and side-effects.
TREATMENT FOR SCREEN-DETECTED BREAST CANCERS
I am able to offer comprehensive treatment for patients who have breast cancers identified either through the NHS Breast Cancer Screening Programme or work-based health screening programmes.
I am also available to discuss the potential benefits of and arrange breast screening for high risk patients or those patients with an identified breast cancer gene mutation.
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