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Breast Screening

Breast screening involves checking breasts for signs of cancers which are too small to see or feel, with the use of x-rays. Screening checks asymptomatic individuals for cancer in an attempt to achieve an earlier diagnosis -early detection often means improved outcomes. The Gibraltar Health Authority offers Breast screening to women aged 40 to 70 to detect early signs of breast cancer. Women over the age of 70 can self-refer. In 2022, 3294 women were invited to attend breast cancer screening appointments by the Gibraltar Health Authority, of which a total of 2559 women attended.

Most breast lumps are not cancerous, but it is always best to have them checked by a doctor.

You should also see a GP if you notice any of these symptoms:

  • A change in the size or shape of one or both breasts.
  • Discharge from either of your nipples, which may be streaked with blood.
  • A lump or swelling in either of your armpits.
  • Dimpling on the skin of your breasts.
  • A rash on or around your nipple.
  • A change in the appearance of your nipple, such as becoming sunken into your breast.

Breast pain is not usually a symptom of breast cancer. However, if you have any concerns, speak to your GP or healthcare provider.

Radiology contact for Breast Screening : +00350 200 72266 Extension 2284.

Breast Screening Frequently Asked Questions

Why do I need breast screening?

One in nine women will develop breast cancer at some time in their life.  Breast cancer is more common in women over 50.  Breast screening can help to find small changes in the breast before there are any other signs or symptoms.

Should all women have breast screening?

We invite all women aged between 40 and 70 every 2 years.
Breast cancer risk increases as women get older. So even though women over 70 are not automatically invited for breast screening, you are still encouraged to go for breast screening every two years. You can contact the Radiology Department for an appointment.
Whatever age you are, if you are ever worried about any breast problem, please contact your doctor who may refer you for a specialist opinion if necessary.

What happens during breast screening?

When you arrive, feel free to ask any questions you have about breast screening.
When you have undressed to the waist and are ready and comfortable, a specialist member of staff will explain mammography to you and ask you a few questions.  Your breast will be placed, one at a time, between two special plates and x-rays will be taken.
Mammography takes a few minutes and your breasts are only pressed for a few seconds each.  There is no evidence that this procedure harms the breast.

Does breast screening hurt?

Some women find breast screening uncomfortable and some find it painful as the breasts have to be held firmly in position and pressed to take a good x-ray.
If  you do experience pain it usually only lasts for as long as the mammogram, although it may continue for some time in a small number of women.

When do I get my results?

When you have had your mammogram, the specialist member of staff will tell you how and approximately when you will get your results.  Make sure you receive this information before you leave.

What does it mean if I am called back?

Some women are called back because the appearance of the x-ray suggests that more tests are needed.
Do not be surprised if we call you back and then the tests show that there is nothing to worry about.  Most women will not have any problems and we will call them back when they are due for routine screening.

How reliable is breast screening?

Mammography is the most reliable way of detecting breast cancer early but, like other screening tests it is not perfect.
For example:
• Some cancers are very difficult to see on the x-ray;
• Some cancers, even though they are there, cannot be seen on the x-ray at all;
• The person reading the x-ray may miss the cancer (this will happen occasionally, no matter how experienced the reader is).

Does breast cancer screening prevent breast cancer?

No, breast cancer screening only helps to find breast cancer if it is already there. You should be aware of any changes in your breasts because breast cancer can develop at any time.  Some women will develop cancer before their first mammograms or between mammograms.
There is a simple five-point breast awareness code that all women should remember.
• Know what is normal for you.
• Check your breasts regularly.
• Know what changes to look for (lumps, pain, discharge from the nipple or anything else unusual).
• Tell your doctor about any changes immediately.
• Attend breast screening appointments.
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