When it's offered

Women who are aged 50-70 and are registered with a GP are automatically invited for screening every three years.

Breast screening is currently offered to women aged 50-70 in England. However, the NHS is in the process of extending the programme as a trial, offering screening to some women aged 47-73.

You will first be invited for screening between your 50th and 53rd birthday, although in some areas you’ll be invited from the age of 47 as part of the trial extension of the programme.

If you want to change the appointment you’ve been given, contact the name and address on your invitation letter.

You may be eligible for breast cancer screening before the age of 50 if you have a higher-than-average risk of developing breast cancer.

If you're over the age of 70 (73 in areas where the trial is in place), you'll stop receiving screening invitations. However, you're still eligible for screening and can arrange an appointment directly with your local breast screening unit.

Find breast cancer screening units in your area.

If you have a family history of breast cancer

If you think you may have an increased risk of breast cancer because you have a family history of breast cancer (female or male) or ovarian cancer, talk to your GP so you can be referred to a hospital high-risk clinic. The clinic may refer you for genetic testing, if they feel it is appropriate.

Read about genetic counselling and predictive genetic tests for cancer risk genes.

Screening for women at high risk of breast cancer

If you've been found to have an increased risk of developing breast cancer, you may have yearly magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans or mammograms, depending on your age and your specific level of risk. MRI scans are sometimes used instead of mammograms because they're better at detecting cancer if you have dense breast tissue.

Private breast screening

NHS screening programmes care for you throughout the whole screening process, including further treatment and care if you need it. In the case of private screening, the care and treatment you may need following screening may not be available from the provider.

You can, however, be referred back into the NHS at any time should a private mammogram be abnormal.

For more information, read the NHS leaflet Thinking of having a private screening test?

Page last reviewed: 07/01/2015
Next review due: 01/01/2018