Have a question about Breast Screening?
Breast screening means carrying out regular mammograms for women without any known breast problems, with the aim to reduce deaths from breast cancer through early detection of the disease. This involves x-raying as many eligible as possible, examining the results, and referring them for further assessment if any early warning signs or abnormalities are present.

To see what happens in a mammogram click here.
A mammogram involves compressing the breast each time to get a good image. If the breast is not compressed the image would be of very poor quality and would have to be repeated with adequate compression. Most women would describe the procedure as uncomfortable, rather than painful, although a few women may find it painful.

The compression during the procedure doesn’t last for long and automatically releases once the X-Ray is taken, if you do find the compression too uncomfortable, you can inform the radiographer who may try position you differently.

To see what happens in a mammogram click here.
Action Cancer offers Breast Screening for well (asymptomatic) women who have no signs, symptoms or increased risk of breast cancer in age group where it has been proven to be effective, every 2 years. Our screening service is accessible for those aged 40-49 & 70+ (the NHS program covers those aged 50-70).  

Book an appointment click here.
Trans men assigned female at birth- if you have not had chest reconstruction surgery and therefore still have breast tissue we recommend you consider breast screening.

Trans women assigned male at birth- Long term hormone therapy increases your risk of developing breast cancer and so we recommend if you have been on hormone treatment for more than 2 years you consider breast screening.

Book an appointment click here.
In Northern Ireland, all women registered with a GP between the ages of 50 and 70 are called every three years for a mammogram with the NHS Breast Screening Programme. This is organised via your GP.  For more information contact your GP or local breast screening unit: Belfast Health and Social Care Trust Tel: 028 9033 3700 Northern Health and Social Care Trust Tel: 028 9442 4425 Southern Health and Social Care Trust Tel: 028 3834 7083 Western Health and Social Care Trust Tel: 028 7161 1443
Action Cancer recommends a routine screening mammogram every two years for women in our age range.
Young women tend to have denser breast tissue-When breast density is high, cancer risk is higher and mammograms are harder to interpret than when breast density is low.

2D Mammograms are very good, but they have some significant limitations in younger women:
  • The compression causes overlapping of the breast tissue. A breast cancer can be hidden in the overlapping tissue and not show up on the mammogram.
  • Mammograms involve only 2 pictures of each breast from 2 different angles.

Tomosynthesis creates a 3-dimensional picture of the breast using x-rays. It takes multiple pictures of each breast from many angles. The benefits proven by research are:
  • We will be able to detect more cancers at an early stage
  • Less clients will be called back for additional tests
  • Less compression required for mammogram
Book an appointment click here.
All mammograms are reported on by a least two specialist readers, at least one of whom will be a Consultant Radiologist. The system of 'double reading' is a breast screening 'gold standard' and is recommended by national & international guidelines.

Within three weeks both you and your GP will be sent a letter which will give a normal result or may ask you to go for further tests at a one-stop breast clinic. While a referral for extra tests can cause anxiety it is important to remember that the majority of women referred do not receive a diagnosis of breast cancer. Action Cancer will sort this referral for you and our clients are seen by the clinics as a ‘red flag’ referral.

If you have received a normal result letter you should make a note of the date and remember to call Action Cancer in two years’ time for another mammogram. Also remain Breast Aware and if you notice any changes in your breast please see your GP.
Around 4% of those x-rayed will be referred on for further investigation. This does not necessarily mean that there is anything wrong: 4 out of 5 people recalled are given a normal result after further tests.

If this was your first mammogram:
Normally the specialists reporting look at the mammogram and compare it with one taken two years previously, looking for any changes. On a first mammogram we do not have a baseline mammogram for comparison. Our breasts are not perfectly symmetrical and we can have differing amounts of breast tissue in each, but on a first mammogram we may check out any area that appears different. It is more common to be recalled on a first mammogram.

If you have had previous mammograms:
The specialists reporting will have compared the mammogram taken with a previous one and have noted a change. Breast tissue changes with age and many changes may just be part of this process, but it is important to check them in case of a more serious problem.

If you have been recalled and would like to speak with a member of Action Cancer staff, please contact 028 9080 3344.

To arrange your referral please phone the number on your letter and the clinical administration them will arrange your referral to your local specialist Breast Clinic. We will make sure that all your imaging and reports are sent to the Breast Consultant in time for your appointment. It is vital that you arrange this with us so that we can make sure that these details are forwarded to the hospital. Without them they will not carry out the assessment.
Yes. We can x-ray women who have had breast augmentation at Action Cancer. Breast implants can obscure mammogram images, decreasing the ability of mammograms to reveal breast cancer. Still, studies show that mammograms are an effective way to screen for breast cancer in women with breast implants. We have a couple of different techniques we can use to image the augmented breast and the number of images taken will depend on where the implant is situated (in front of or behind the pectoral muscle) and how much natural breast tissue is present. We can take up to 8 images. The radiographer will discuss this with you at your appointment and do the best examination for you.

Book an appointment click here.
Screening mammography is not offered to women under 40 as there is no evidence to show that it is beneficial in this age group. The younger you are the denser the breast tissue, this means that it is very hard to pick up abnormalities in the breast tissue and makes mammography often an inappropriate examination for younger women.

However, anyone under 40 with breast concerns should see their GP.  They can make a referral to a specialist Breast Clinic where the woman can be examined using the most appropriate test. Otherwise the best advice is to be breast aware and when you turn 40 to book an appointment with Action Cancer.
Only 1% of breast cancers found in the UK are in men, this means that breast cancer is predominately a female disease. This is why breast screening is only available to women. However if a man has any breast concerns he should see his GP immediately for referral to a specialist clinic for assessment if appropriate
Both Action Cancer House & our mobile unit (the Big Bus) are fully wheelchair accessible and we welcome all women who are age eligible to attend for screening regardless of disability. However, mammography is a procedure which is technically difficult and which requires a high degree of cooperation between the radiographer and the client. It is also an intimate examination and we have to have the full and informed consent of the person. They must understand and agree for the examination to be carried out.

The client has to be carefully positioned on the x-ray machine, and must be able to hold the position for several seconds. This may not be possible for people with limited mobility in their upper bodies or who are unable to support their upper bodies unaided. Please contact Action Cancer if in any doubt about suitability.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK and the number of people diagnosed each year is increasing. But with earlier diagnosis and better treatment options fewer people are dying from breast cancer. Evidence shows that breast screening has also contributed to this reduction. Breast screening will not prevent breast cancer from developing, but it can help find a breast cancer sooner, which means a better outlook is more likely. On the other hand, breast screening isn’t 100% reliable – for example not all breast cancers can be seen on a mammogram and therefore being breast aware is very important. It has been concluded by experts that the benefits of breast screening outweigh any risks.

Some benign (not cancer) conditions diagnosed through screening need further investigations or an operation to confirm the diagnosis, which can cause a period of anxiety and some physical discomfort. Other conditions called DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) and pleomorphic LCIS (lobular carcinoma insitu) are more commonly diagnosed following screening but may never develop further, or may grow so slowly that they would never cause harm. However, in some cases these conditions can develop into invasive breast cancer (cancer that has the potential to spread to other parts of the body). Because of this uncertainty doctors will usually recommend treatment (including surgery) which can lead to some people being ‘over-treated’.
Radiation can be dangerous and therefore before carrying out any x-ray examination we have to determine and prove that the benefits of the examination outweigh any potential risks. Breast Screening has been proven to reduce deaths from Breast Cancer and therefore biannual mammograms are concerned beneficial. The radiation dose of a mammogram is low. The average radiation dose from an Action Cancer 2D mammogram is significantly lower than the maximum set limits given by Regulatory Bodies. A 3D combination mammogram does not increase this dose of radiation. On your first mammogram we will perform a 2D mammogram AND a 3D mammogram, this will cause an increase in radiation dose but our Medical Physics experts have assured us this is still below maximum limits recommended and the proven benefits outweigh the risk.

The average radiation dose from an Action Cancer mammogram is about the equivalent to the dose of background radiation you would receive on a long-haul flight.
Have a question about Breast Cancer?
  • Breast cancer, like other cancers, is a disease of the body's cells
  • Cancer begins with a change in cells, which increase in number to form a lump
  • If the cancers are not removed or controlled, the abnormal cells can spread and may eventually cause death
  • Most breast lumps are benign, which means they are non-cancerous and are usually harmless
  • Breast cancer generally arises in the cells that line the specialized breast tissue
  • Breast cancer can spread to the lymph glands, the bones and other parts of the body
     
Over 80% of breast lumps are benign (not cancer) and are very common in pre-menopausal women.  They can come and go with the menstrual cycle but any breast lump should be assessed by your GP for referral if necessary to a specialist breast clinic.
Please look through our signs & symptoms section and if you have any of these concerns please make an urgent appointment to see your GP for referral to a specialist Symptomatic breast clinic. The NICE guidelines for people of all ages who have any concern (symptomatic) are very different to breast screening, this group must be seen at a specialist breast clinic for clinical examination by a surgeon who will then decide what imaging tests are appropriate, pathology testing would also need to be carried out if necessary. A mammogram may not be the imaging tool of choice but the clinic would decide based on the concern.
Action Cancer offers a range of support services to any child or adult affected by cancer (person diagnosed and family/friends/carers from diagnosis stage, during or after treatment. Services are also available to anyone who has been bereaved through cancer or is currently undergoing genetic cancer testing.

The purpose of our support services is to help people through a difficult time in their lives, providing them with tools and techniques to help them to cope with their situation.

Our services can be useful to deal with both physical and emotional issues such as pain, tiredness/fatigue, sleeplessness, anxiety/fear, and the feeling of being overwhelmed which often is felt by both people diagnosed by cancer and their family members.

To find out more about our support services click here.
Yes, men can get breast cancer, although it is much rarer than in women. There are about 300 cases of male breast cancer in the UK each year, this compares with around 45,700 cases of female breast cancer. This means that breast screening isn’t offered to men.

If you are a man and have any breast symptoms or concerns you should see your GP immediately to have it checked thoroughly.
Have a question about the Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer?
  • Any change in the shape or size of your breast
  • A lump or thickness in the breast or under the armpit
  • Change in the skin – any dimpling, puckering or redness
  • Nipple discharge – bleeding or any heavy discharge
  • Change in the position of a nipple – pulled inwards or pointing in a different direction
  • Rash on the nipple
  • Veins that stand out more than normal in one of your breasts
  • A pain or odd sensation that is not normal for you

NB If you have any of these signs or symptoms please see your GP immediately, a breast screening mammogram is not the appropriate test and we will not x-ray you.
Breast pain is very common in women of all ages. For example, approximately two out of three pre-menopausal women will experience it at some time in their lives. Having breast pain does not increase your risk of breast cancer. However, it is still important to be breast aware and go back to your GP if your pain is persistent, unusual or you notice any other changes in your breasts.

There are 3 types of breast pain:
  • Cyclical breast pain - breast pain that has a clear relationship to the menstrual cycle and the most common type of breast pain
  • Non-cyclical breast pain - may be constant or intermittent but is not associated with the menstrual cycle
  • Chest Wall (non-breast) pain - is interpreted as having a cause within the breast but arises from elsewhere

Cyclical breast pain is linked to changing hormone levels during the menstrual cycle and therefore it mainly affects women before their menopause. These hormonal changes make the breast tissue more sensitive, which in turn can cause pain.

You may experience heaviness, tenderness, a burning, prickling or stabbing type pain, or a feeling of tightness in the area. The pain can affect either one or both breasts and can also spread to the armpit, down the arm and to the shoulder blade. This type of pain usually stops when the ovaries are no longer active after the menopause.

Most noncyclic breast pain arises for unknown reasons. A wide range of drugs have been associated with breast pain. A number of women report breast pain with oestrogen and combined hormonal therapies. Other drugs associated with breast pain include antidepressants, some cardiovascular drugs please see your GP if you are concerned.

Chest Wall (non-breast) pain can be felt in the area of the breast but actually comes from elsewhere such as the muscles, bones and joints. This can result in continuous pain or pain that comes and goes and can affect women before and after the menopause. The pain can be in one or both breasts and can affect the whole breast or a specific area. It may be a burning, prickling or stabbing pain, or a feeling of tightness in the area. It can last from a few minutes to a few days.

Some underwire bras, or too-tight bras, can pinch or cause constant rubbing which irritates skin and breast tissue and leads to pain. We would recommend that women have a bra fitting every six months with a reputable retailer with trained bra fitters.
Over 80% of breast lumps are benign (not cancer) and are very common in pre-menopausal women.  They can come and go with the menstrual cycle but any breast lump should be assessed by your GP for referral if necessary to a specialist breast clinic.
Being Breast aware means knowing what your breasts look like and how they feel. If you know what is normal for you it will be easier to detect any changes.

Most breast changes will be harmless but if you’re concerned it’s a good idea to see your doctor for proper advice.

When to check 
  • A week after your monthly period
  • If you are breast feeding check once a month just after a feed
  • Check on the first day of the month if you no longer have a monthly period
How to check

You might like to check in the bath or shower with soapy hands so that you become familiar with your breasts:
  • Look in the mirror with arms at your side
  • Raise arms above your head and look again
  • Lean forward with hands on your hips and look again for any new change in the shape of your breasts
  • With soapy hands you can easily check one breast at a time
  • Use the right hand to check the left breast and the left hand to check the right breast
  • Keep your fingers together and use them to slide over the whole of each breast and up under the armpit
  • You don’t need to squeeze or poke at your breasts
What increases my risk of Breast Cancer?
  • Being female is the single biggest risk factor for breast cancer
  • Breast cancer risk increases with age: the older the woman, the higher the risk
  • A significant family history
  • The risk is greater in women who consume a high fat diet
  • Women with no children or having their first pregnancy after the age of 30 years
  • Commencing menstrual periods before the age of 11 years
  • Menopause occurring after the age of 55 years
  • Smoking and alcohol intake may also increase risk


The biggest risk factors for breast cancer are being a woman and getting older so we recommend that every woman regardless of family history is breast aware & maintains a healthy lifestyle. If you would like help with this, we also offer health checks here at Action Cancer House & on our Big Bus these will give general health advice on cancer prevention & can be booked via our website.

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Breast pain is very common in women of all ages. For example, approximately two out of three pre-menopausal women will experience it at some time in their lives. Having breast pain does not increase your risk of breast cancer. However, it is still important to be breast aware and go back to your GP if your pain is persistent, unusual or you notice any other changes in your breasts. There are 3 types of breast pain: Cyclical breast pain - breast pain that has a clear relationship to the menstrual cycle and the most common type of breast pain Non-cyclical breast pain - may be constant or intermittent but is not associated with the menstrual cycle Chest Wall (non-breast) pain - is interpreted as having a cause within the breast but arises from elsewhere Cyclical breast pain is linked to changing hormone levels during the menstrual cycle and therefore it mainly affects women before their menopause. These hormonal changes make the breast tissue more sensitive, which in turn can cause pain. You may experience heaviness, tenderness, a burning, prickling or stabbing type pain, or a feeling of tightness in the area. The pain can affect either one or both breasts and can also spread to the armpit, down the arm and to the shoulder blade. This type of pain usually stops when the ovaries are no longer active after the menopause. Most noncyclic breast pain arises for unknown reasons. A wide range of drugs have been associated with breast pain. A number of women report breast pain with oestrogen and combined hormonal therapies. Other drugs associated with breast pain include antidepressants, some cardiovascular drugs please see your GP if you are concerned. Chest Wall (non-breast) pain can be felt in the area of the breast but actually comes from elsewhere such as the muscles, bones and joints. This can result in continuous pain or pain that comes and goes and can affect women before and after the menopause. The pain can be in one or both breasts and can affect the whole breast or a specific area. It may be a burning, prickling or stabbing pain, or a feeling of tightness in the area. It can last from a few minutes to a few days. Some underwire bras, or too-tight bras, can pinch or cause constant rubbing which irritates skin and breast tissue and leads to pain. We would recommend that women have a bra fitting every six months with a reputable retailer with trained bra fitters
Those with close relatives diagnosed with breast, ovarian, prostate or bowel cancer may be more at risk, although it is important to bear in mind that less than 15% of breast cancers are family history related. If you are concerned about a family history of breast cancer you should discuss this with your GP. Take as much information as you can about your blood relatives on both your mother’s and father’s sides of the family who have had a cancer diagnosis. For each family member who has had cancer your GP needs to know: What relation they are to you and to each other Which cancer they had How old they were when they had it If they are still alive, or when they died If they feel that your family history is significant they will refer you to a specialist family history clinic for further assessment.  The Family History clinic will be able assess your family tree and identify if you may be at higher risk and examine you to decide what type of surveillance is best i.e. MRI, ultrasound or mammography- they will also see you every year if they feel it necessary. They will also be able to refer you to the genetics clinic as appropriate. Mammography isn’t as sensitive in younger women and therefore isn’t always the most appropriate test. Guidelines would suggest that mammography in women under 35 is not advised but at the clinic they will be able to do the test most appropriate for your individual circumstances. They also do an annual breast examination. These clinics are excellent and they are run at Belfast City, Ulster, Craigavon, Antrim & Altnagelvin Hospitals. The biggest risk factors for breast cancer are being a woman and getting older so we recommend that every woman regardless of family history is breast aware & maintains a healthy lifestyle. If you would like help with this, we also offer health checks here at Action Cancer House & on our Big Bus these will give general health advice on cancer prevention & can be booked via our website. Insert HP link If you have or are undergoing genetic testing our support services may be of benefit to you Insert TS link
There is some evidence that certain types of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and contraceptive pill may slightly increase your risk of breast cancer. If you are at all concerned about HRT/pill use you should discuss this with your GP. There is no evidence that women on HRT/pill require more frequent mammograms than received through routine screening. The biggest risk factors for breast cancer are being a woman and getting older so we recommend that everyone regardless of family history is breast aware & maintains a healthy lifestyle. If you would like help with this, we also offer health checks here at Action Cancer House & on our Big Bus these will give general health advice on cancer prevention & can be booked via our website. Insert HP link

Additional Questions

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