Your guide to breast cancer screening

Over half a million people in the UK are currently living with breast cancer. And while survival rates are improving, more can always be done.

One of the best ways to help tackle it is by getting yourself screened. If you have a problem screening can spot it early, while if there is nothing found you will get peace of mind.

Some 78% of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer are predicted to survive for more than ten years.

Risk factors

Despite improvements in detection, treatment and survival rates there are still around 11,000 deaths from invasive breast cancer every year in the UK.

Of those, over a quarter (27%) are linked to major lifestyle and other risk factors. According to the Breast Cancer Campaign, these include:

  • Alcohol – Around 6% of female breast cancer cases are due to alcohol consumption
  • Weight – 9% of female breast cancers are linked to women being overweight or obese ten years earlier
  • Exercise – Between 3% and 4 % of all post-menopausal female breast cancers diagnosed were directly linked to low exercise levels ten years earlier
  • Genetics - Women who inherit the faulty or mutated BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes have a 50% to 80% chance of developing breast cancer during their lifetime

Why get screened?

While breast cancer is most common in women over 50 it can occur at any age so any unusual lumps, bleeding or changes in nipple shape should be checked out.

Cancer Research UK and the National Cancer Director found that around 1,300 breast cancer deaths are prevented every year because of screening. Department of Health research found that a third of all cancers are caught through screening.

Screening options

Screening involves a mammography. This involves squeezing each breast between two plates and taking an X-ray to spot any unusual tissue or lumps. While it can be uncomfortable, it can spot cancer early and so increase your chances of beating it.

A breast ultrasound can also be used as well as a mammography. It uses sound waves to take a picture of the tissues inside the breast and can add detail to the X-ray.

If further information is needed a biopsy is often taken. This involves removing some cells from the suspicious area for further examination. This can be through a needle biopsy or surgical biopsy, which is done under local anaesthetic.

One of the benefits of screening is that most patients actually find that their results are normal and leave with complete peace of mind.

If an abnormality is detected, at Ramsay you will receive the support of a Breast Care Sister and early access to treatment at the same hospital. You will also meet consultant reconstructive surgeons and consultant medical oncologists if required.

One Stop Breast Clinic

Ramsay Healthcare offers a One Stop Breast Clinic, which has been developed to help ease the anxiety of breast symptoms.

It is held at its Springfield Hospital in Essex and runs every Tuesday and Friday afternoon/evening.

The clinic offers an appointment with a Consultant Breast Surgeon and if necessary, a digital mammography and breast ultrasound. Depending upon the diagnostic results, further tests such as a biopsy may be conducted.

With Ramsay, the result of the mammogram or ultrasound will usually be available to the consultant on the day. If you require a biopsy, the results from this test will be available in 3-4 days.


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