New patient information about screening mammograms
We have created a new information sheet for patients considering breast screening at The Harley Street Breast Clinic.
Tuesday 4th September 2018
Breast screening is a choice for you to make as an individual.
The goal of this information is to help you decide what is best for you and answer some frequently asked questions.
Why do private clinics and the NHS offer breast screening?
The aim of breast screening is to save lives by detecting early breast cancers which are too small to feel. Breast screening does not prevent breast cancer.
There are some risks associated with breast screening. Primarily, some women will be diagnosed and treated for a breast cancer which never would have gone on to have caused them to lose their life without any intervention.
What is breast cancer?
“Breast cancer starts when the cells in the breast begin to grow in an uncontrolled way and build up to form a lump (also known as a tumour). As the cancer grows, cells can spread to other parts of the body and this can be life threatening” (NHS Breast Screening guide, “helping you decide” July 2016”).
In the United Kingdom, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer. Age is a contributing factor to getting breast cancer as most tumours are found in women over the age of 50. Most women with breast cancer do not have any family history of the disease.
What is breast screening?
Breast screening is a diagnostic imaging test using an x-ray called a mammogram which the Consultant Radiologists use to check if there are any signs of cancer.
What happens during my breast screening?
You will complete a registration form to confirm your details. A mammograms is taken by female radiographers called mammographers. They will take you through a questionnaire to check your medical history and explain the procedure before going ahead.
To have a mammogram, you take off all your clothes above the waist, so you may choose to wear a two piece outfit. The Mammographer generally takes two images of each breast depending on your breast size and the position you are able to maintain. She will position your breast onto the mammogram machine and use a plastic plate to flatten your breast tissue. This helps keep your breast still, allows for more clear mammogram pictures and lowers the amount of x-ray needed to obtain the diagnostic image. The feeling of compression is tight and uncomfortable. A small number of women find it more severe, particularly if your breasts are already tender. If you are feeling too uncomfortable or want the procedure to stop, you just need to tell the Mammographer taking your mammogram.
The process of going through the questionnaire and taking the screening mammogram is around 20 minutes.
This information has been adapted from NHS Breast Screening guide “Helping you decide”, published July 2016
Breast Screening Results
If you are attending a one stop clinic with a Consultant Radiologist on site, you will need to wait for your results. It generally takes around 30 minutes for the Consultant to analyse your images. If anything further is required such as additional mammogram views or an ultrasound, this can be done whilst you are on site and you will get a provisional verbal result before you leave. This result is provisional only because a second consultant will analyse your mammogram as well. You will then receive either a letter from the clinic stating the results are normal, or the Consultant Surgeon you have seen will write to you with the result.
If you are attending for breast screening only, you will be able to leave once the mammogram test is complete. Your mammograms will be read by two Consultant Radiologists and receive a letter in the post saying the results are normal, or the clinic will phone you if anything further is required.
All the screening mammograms at The Harley Street Breast Clinic are double read (by two Consultant Radiologists), and the report is sent to your referring doctor or GP.
Dense breasts on mammograms
Dense breast tissue is common and is not abnormal; however dense breast tissue can make it harder to find cancer on a mammogram and may be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. This information about your breast tissue density is given to you to raise awareness. Use this information to talk to your doctor about your own risk for breast cancer. At that time, ask your doctor if more screening tests may be useful, based on your risk.
Should I be worried about radiation?
Public Health England have recently published a paper communicating the potential radiation risks facing women who attend digital mammography breast screening. The paper was required as there has been significant changes in mammography technologies. Moving from analogue to digital breast screening imaging has effectively reduced the overall patient radiation dose.
The conclusions of the publication, include the ratio of induced cancers to detected cancers at a ratio from 1:400 to 1:800. The actual number of lives saved from digital mammogram breast screening was approximately 150 to 300 times higher than the risk.
The Harley Street Breast Clinic are audited by and follow the guidance of Radiation Protection Advisors at St George's Healthcare NHS Trust.
Follow the government link below for the full publication. This content is produced by the government and is not controlled by The Harley Street Breast Clinic:
For every procedure at The Harley Street Breast Clinic, we have the facility to provide you with a chaperone. If you would like to take up this service, please let any staff member know.