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Breast screening

Published on 13 April 2022

Breast screening is a way of finding a breast cancer when it's too small to see or feel. It involves having an x-ray of the breast, called a mammogram. Screening is the best way to detect breast cancer early. Breast screening does not prevent breast cancer, but it can increase survival rates.

Where does the Breast Screening Service take place?

We commission the breast screening service. It operates out of six screening centres. Details of the centres and the areas they screen in Scotland are available on NHS Inform.

You can also find contact information there. Each centre has a Clinical Director who's responsible for the service.

Women receive invites to attend for their breast mammography appointment at either a mobile unit or a screening centre.

Who gets the breast screening test and how does it work?

Women between the ages of 50 and 70 (up to their 71st birthday) get invites for breast screening once every three years. The timing of an appointment depends on the GP practice a woman is registered at.

Each GP practice takes part in the breast screening programme once every three years. This means that women may not receive their first invitation until they are nearly 53. Women who are 71 and over can self refer for breast screening by contacting their local screening centre.

The most effective way of finding breast cancer early is by mammography. At an appointment, two mammograms of each breast are taken. The results from screening are then sent to the women and their GP surgery. Around 5 out of 100 women who have the screening will need further tests.

Further information for participants:

Find more information on the NHS Inform website. This includes details around:

  • the screening invitation
  • the benefits and risks
  • what to expect at an appointment

The 'Make time for breast screening' booklet is also available from NHS Health Scotland. You can access this in an easy read version or in other languages.

Further information for health professionals:

Find the screening standards for the programme on the Healthcare Improvement Scotland website.

For programme statistical information and trend data, visit the Information Services Division Scotland website.

NSD contact

nss.nsdscreening@nhs.scot

Please note that NSD does not directly provide medical services and we won't be able to answer queries about your own care or appointments. If you would like to discuss any aspects of your care, please contact your primary healthcare provider. This might be your GP, Consultant, Nurse or other healthcare professional. They will be best placed to give you the right advice.