The NHS breast screening programme uses mammograms to screen for breast cancer in women in the UK from the age of 50 to 70. The programme is currently being expanded to offer mammograms to women between the ages of 47 and 73. It is in the roll out phase in England at the moment and all areas should be covered by 2016. Women over 73 can request screening every 3 years by contacting their local breast screening unit.

The current evidence suggests that breast screening reduces the number of deaths from breast cancer by about 1,300 a year in the UK.

Click here to visit the NHS Breast Screening Programme website.

This information was taken with permission from the Macmillan Cancer Support website. If you have any further questions please contact the Macmillan Cancer Support line on 0808 808 0000.


The breasts

The breasts are made up of fat and connective tissue and are divided up into lobes of glandular tissue.

A network of ducts spreads from the lobes towards the nipple.

Breast size and density

The breasts are not usually the same size as each other. They may also feel different at different times of the month – for example, just before a period they can feel lumpy.

Younger women have more glandular tissue in their breasts, which makes them dense. Once a woman is post-menopausal the glandular tissue is gradually replaced by fat, which is less dense. It is harder to read a mammogram if the breast tissue is dense. So mammograms are not as reliable for young women.

Specialists have found that older women who take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) have denser breasts than would be expected for their age. This is related to the HRT and may make mammograms less accurate for these women.

This content is based on information published by Cancer Help UK, the patient information website of Cancer Research UK.