Why screen for breast cancer?

At present the only way to substantially reduce the number of deaths from breast cancer is to find it at an early stage before it can be felt.

When will women from this practice been invited?

All women aged 50-70 within West Sussex are invited over a three-year period and each GP practice is invited in turn according to a strict rota agreed with the local Primary Care Support Services (PCSS). This means a woman can be invited for her first screening anytime up to her 53rd birthday.

A woman is over 70. Can she still have screening?

Yes, she can still be screened every 3 years. However, she will need to contact the Screening Office herself to arrange this.

A woman is under 50. Can she be screened?

Not currently. However if any woman under the age of 50 has noticed a change in her breasts, she should discuss this with her GP who can refer her to a local Breast Care Centre if necessary.

How will women be invited?

An appointment letter will be sent by the Screening Office. The letter will include information about breast screening and a map to show the location of the mobile screening unit.

When will women receive their appointment?

About 3 to 4 weeks beforehand.

Can they change their appointment?

Yes - they can phone the office on 01903 239757.

If a woman cannot climb steps and so cannot access the mobile unit, what can she do?

She can be screened at the Breast care Centre at Worthing Hospital. If she phones the office on 01903 239757, the staff will arrange this. However, transport arrangements are the responsibility of the woman or the GP Practice.

If a woman does not attend her appointment and then changes her mind later on, what does she do?

She can request another appointment at any time so long as it is more than six months before her next invitation. However, if the mobile unit has moved from your area, she will need to attend in another area or at Worthing Hospital. She should then also attend her next regular appointment to get her back in line with the Practice.

A woman is new to the area. What does she do if she wants a mammogram?

The Screening Office routinely contacts women who have moved into the area when notified by the PCSS, unless their GP Practice is about to be screened. She can call the office to check.

How does a woman know if she will be called by the Screening Programme?

Provided a woman is registered with a GP Practice under the NHS and falls within the eligible age group, then her details will be downloaded to the Screening Office from the PCSS as outlined above.

A woman has had a mammogram elsewhere within the last year. What does she do?

It is quite safe to have another mammogram so long as 6 months have elapsed since her previous one. However, if she decides not to attend this time, she will not be invited for another 3 years from the current appointment. This will keep her in line with other women from the GP Practice.

How often can she be screened by the Screening Service?

Every 3 years.

Are any women not invited for screening?

Women who have had a bilateral mastectomy or who have had both breasts removed in separate surgical procedures are not invited provided their GP has advised either the PCSS or the Screening Office.

A woman has breast implants - can she still be screened?

Yes. Digital mammography is suitable for women with implants and this can be done either at the mobile unit or at our base unit.

Can a woman opt out of the Screening Programme at her own request?

Yes - a woman can choose to opt out of the screening Programme by asking the Screening Office to send her a "Disclaimer Letter" for her signature and return. Unless this ha been received and a copy sent to the PCSS, the Screening Office is obliged to continue to send appointments.

A woman has a cognitive and/or physical impairment - can she still be screened?Yes provided she can consent to the procedure and provided she can stand unaided and lift her arms above her head. However, women who cannot manage steps or who use a wheelchair will need to be screened at the base unit in Worthing. Women with physical disabilities which prevent them from complying with the procedure can opt out as above by signing the "Disclaimer Letter". we have leaflets available for women with learning disabilities. For women who have been assessed as lacking capacity to consent under the Mental Capacity Act, a multi-disciplinary best interests meeting will need to be held to decide whether screening is appropriate - further information is available on request.

A woman has previously had breast cancer. Does screening still apply to her?

Yes, if she has been discharged from her follow-up care. Screening Offices have no access to medical information from either hospitals or GPs and so women who are undergoing treatment may still be invited.

A woman has a family history of breast cancer - what happens?

Any woman with a known family history who has been seen by a geneticist and confirmed to have the BRCA or BRCA2 gene or equivalent risk will be referred to the Higher Risk Programme by the genetics department for follow-up as appropriate. Women with any other family history can be referred to their local Family History Clinic and will be assessed and followed up as appropriate.

Does screening hurt?

It may be uncomfortable or occasionally painful for a few seconds when each breast is compressed against the x-ray plate. If a woman's breasts tend to become tender at a particular time of the month, she can phone the office to re-arrange the appointment if she wishes.

How long does screening take?

A woman should be on the mobile unit for half an hour or less.

Does a woman need to do anything to prepare for screening?

She should wear suitable clothing as she will need to undress her top half. She should not wear spray deodorant as this can make tiny marks on the x-rays.

Will the staff all be women?

All the radiographers are women, both on the mobile units and at the hospital. Some of the medical staff and administrative staff are male.

How soon do results arrive?

Results should be received within 3 weeks.

Should a woman still examine her breasts herself?

Yes - she should be aware of any changes in her breasts. Breast cancer can develop at any time including the intervals between screening.

If she finds a change, what should she do?

She should contact her GP who will refer her to see a Breast Surgeon at her nearest Hospital. The Screening Service cannot screen women on demand.

If a woman is called back for assessment after screening, what does that mean?

It usually means that we have seen a change in her x-rays compared with those taken last time. The majority of women recalled do not have cancer. However, the films may not give a complete answer and further investigation is sometimes needed.

What will happen at assessment?

Some extra mammograms may be taken. She will then see a senior specialist doctor who will undertake a clinical examination and possibly an ultrasound.

What happens then?

The majority of women are found to have no abnormality at this stage. Some women may need a biopsy to help with a diagnosis. This is usually done at the assessment appointment but some women will need to come back on another day.

When will she know if she has got cancer?

Depending on the investigations undertaken, she could know the same day or she may be asked to come back about 10 days later for the results.

What treatment will she need?

Her specialist will discuss with her all the treatment options and, if appropriate, will then refer her to a consultant surgeon or other cancer specialist. The treatment of breast cancer has developed significantly and it is in her interest to be aware of all options open to her. A Breast Care Nurse will also spend time with her to make sure she has understood everything.  Additional treatment in the form of radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy and/or hormone treatment and/or biological therapy may also be needed.

If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact the Screening Office Team on 01903 239757

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