It’s time

When it comes to breast screening, it’s time to look after yourself.

If you’re invited to your regular breast screening appointment, it’s important that you attend.

Breast cancer doesn’t wait, and neither should you.

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Why time is of the essence for early breast cancer detection

Why it’s time to put yourself first when it comes to early breast cancer detection

As women, we are busy. From working, taking care of our families, managing everyday life, there isn’t much time for anything else. Our busy lives usually mean we don’t prioritise looking after our own health – it’s time to change this.

A breast screening appointment doesn’t take much time, yet could be a contributing factor that provides an opportunity to spend more time with our loved ones. Early detection of breast cancer saves lives. It means treatment can be more successful and there’s a good chance of recovery.

In 2020, there were 2.3 million women diagnosed with breast cancer and 685,000 deaths recorded globally 1

As of the end of 2020, there were 7.8 million women alive who were diagnosed with breast cancer in the past 5 years, making it the world’s most prevalent cancer. The earlier your healthcare team is aware of cancer, more life-saving solutions may be available.

Additionally, there are more lost disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) attributed to women with breast cancer globally than any other type of cancer. Breast cancer occurs in every country of the world in women at any age after puberty but with increasing rates in later life 1.

The benefits of breast screening

1 in 8 women get breast cancer in their lifetime

Although, 1 in 8 women get breast cancer in their lifetime2, it is estimated for every 200 women screened, one woman has their life saved and will not die from breast cancer3.

More than 90% of women live longer than five years after diagnosis in developed countries

More than 90% of women live longer than five years after diagnosis in developed countries1. You may also be less likely to need a mastectomy (breast removal) or chemotherapy if cancer is discovered in the early stages.

Why time is of the essence for early breast cancer detection

How breast screening works

Breast cancer screening is offered to every woman aged between 50-70, and this may be extended to those aged 40 in some countries.

You will be invited by your healthcare provider every 2-3 years, or you may be able to call your healthcare provider to make an appointment at your screening centre. The process may be a little different depending on your country, so check with your local healthcare provider if you’re unsure.

Even if you’re feeling fit and healthy, it’s important to make time to look after yourself and take up your appointment.

You may be feeling a little apprehensive about your appointment and that’s completely natural. Rest assured, breast screening is done quickly and carefully by female-only healthcare professionals.

The whole appointment usually takes less than half an hour and the mammogram itself takes only a few minutes.

What to expect at a screening

What to expect at a screening

The breast screening itself usually takes about 5 minutes, with the full visit taking about 30 minutes. When you arrive, you’ll be asked for your name and date of birth to check your identity before being taken to a private cubicle. You will then be given a gown and asked to remove your clothing from the waist up before entering the x-ray room.

The mammographer will position you correctly one breast at a time between two plates on the machine. These plates apply gentle, but firm pressure. Some women may feel some discomfort due to the pressure applied, but this part of the procedure should only last a few seconds. Stay as still as possible, as this will help your mammographer get a clear image; they may give you some breathing exercises to help prevent you from moving.

Routinely, four images will be taken in total, two per breast. However, if you have larger breasts or breast implants, your mammographer may take additional images.

You will not receive your result on the day, but you should expect to hear back within two weeks of your appointment. Ask your mammographer how quickly you should expect to hear from them.

COVID-19 Precautions

Healthcare providers are taking all the necessary precautions to make sure breast screening is as safe as possible, so don’t let this be a concern. With some simple, sensible steps you can help play your part too.

  • Reschedule your appointment for another time if you, or any members of your household, have any COVID-19 related symptoms
  • Come by yourself, where possible. If you need assistance, please let the clinic know in advance
  • Bring a face covering with you, although it’s likely you will be given a mask on arrival. Your temperature may also be checked
  • Stick to the appointment time you are given, rather than arriving early
  • Sanitise your hands before and after your breast screening
Why time is of the essence for early breast cancer detection

Tips for preparing for your screening appointment


  • Wear separates so it’s easy to take off your top. You might find it helps to take a loose-fitting top or a cardigan with you to wear while you’re waiting to go into the x-ray room

  • Don’t apply talcum powder, deodorant, creams, perfumes, oils or lotions to your armpits or breasts before your appointment, as this can affect the quality of the images

  • If you have longer hair, bring a hair tie along with you as you may be asked to pull it back

  • Let the clinic know ahead of time if you have breast implants

  • Remove any jewellery from around your neck and face, as large earrings or necklaces can get in the way

It’s time to look after yourself and attend your breast screening appointment – early detection can save lives.

More information

Here are some links to organisations and charities if you would like to find out more about breast cancer and screening programmes.

Europe:

European Breast Cancer coalition Europa Donna

Visit Website

NHS Breast Cancer Screening

Visit Website

Cancer Research UK Breast Cancer

Visit Website

Prevent Breast cancer

Visit Website

La Ligue

Visit Website

Canada:

Canadian Breast Cancer Network

Visit Website

Canadian Cancer Society

Visit Website

Government of Canada

Visit Website

Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care

Visit Website

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References: 1.WHO, FactSheets, Breast Cancer, 2021, March 26. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/breast-cancer [Accessed August 2021] website accessed on 25 September 2020 2.NHS, Conditions, Breast Cancer, 2019, October 28. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/breast-cancer [Accessed August 2021] 3.NHS, Benefits and risks, Breast cancer screening, 2017, March 27. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/breast-cancer-screening/why-its-offered/ [Accessed August 2021]

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