The Breast Screening Programme in the UK: What women need to know to look after their breast health

Introduction:

Breast cancer is a significant health concern affecting women globally, and the United Kingdom has taken proactive steps to address this issue through the National Breast Screening Programme (NBSP). This comprehensive initiative aims to detect breast cancer at an early stage, allowing for timely intervention and improved chances of successful treatment. In this article, we will explore what UK women need to know about the NBSP, emphasising the importance of regular screening and understanding the process.

What is the National Breast Screening Programme?

The National Breast Screening Programme is a government-sponsored initiative designed to screen women for breast cancer at regular intervals, typically every three years. The program primarily targets women aged 50 to 70, although some areas also offer screening to women aged 47 to 73. The goal is to detect breast cancer at an early stage when it is more treatable and to reduce mortality rates associated with the disease.

Key Points to Understand:

  1. Eligibility and Invitations:Women within the eligible age range will receive an invitation to participate in the breast screening program. These invitations are sent via mail and include details about your screening location and appointment scheduling.  Women beyond the age of 70 if they wish to continue to be screened then they can request a mammogram every 3 years from the breast screening programme but they will not be routinely invited after their last mammogram at the age of 70.
  1. Frequency of Screenings:The standard screening interval is once every three years. Regular screening is crucial for detecting any changes in the breast tissue early on, increasing the chances of successful treatment.
  1. Mammography Process:The screening process involves a mammogram, which is an X-ray of the breasts. During the procedure, the breasts are gently compressed between two plates to obtain clear images. While it may cause temporary discomfort, the benefits of early detection far outweigh any momentary inconvenience.
  1. Interpreting Results:After the mammogram, radiologists will examine the images to identify any abnormalities. Women will receive a letter within a few weeks explaining the results. It’s important to note that most women will have a normal result, but for those with abnormal findings, further tests may be recommended.
  1. Follow-up Procedures:In case of abnormal results, additional tests, such as ultrasound or biopsy, may be conducted to determine the nature of the detected changes. Early diagnosis enables prompt and appropriate treatment, enhancing the chances of a positive outcome.
  1. Self-Examinations and Awareness:While the NBSP plays a crucial role in early detection, women are encouraged to be proactive about their breast health. Regular self-examination and awareness of any changes in the breasts are essential components of a comprehensive approach to breast health.

Conclusion:

The National Breast Screening Programme is a vital tool in the fight against breast cancer in the United Kingdom. Understanding the importance of regular screening, being aware of the process, and staying informed about breast health are key aspects of participating in this program. By actively engaging in breast cancer prevention and early detection, women can empower themselves to make informed decisions about their well-being and contribute to improved health outcomes. Regular screening is crucial step towards a healthier and more resilient community, working together to combat breast cancer.

If you have any concerns with regards to your breast health get in touch for a breast health review providing expert assessment, advice, reassurance or diagnosis and treatment as appropriate. My patients rate my practice and service as excellent, book in to understand why.

Seni Mylvaganam

Consultant Oncoplastic Breast Surgeon

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WANT TO KNOW MORE

FAQ’s

Breast surgery as any surgery is not without risk. These risks and the relative chance of them happening for you will differ dependent on the type of surgery you have and also personal risk factors. Risks of breast surgery can be early risks related to the surgery itself or longer term risks such as cosmetic changes related to ageing.

Infection and poor wound healing are a risk in all breast procedures whether it is for breast cancer or for cosmetic reasons. Cosmetic surgery has a lower risk of this but it is increased if you are a smoker or have other medical problems which may effect healing such as diabetes. Every breast procedure will have a long list of possible risks or complications however most of them can be quite rare.

Your surgeon will be able to guide you through the individual risks for your chosen procedure explaining about likelihood of occurrence and what that could mean for you if the complication occurs.

This can be a difficult question to answer. In the cosmetic setting your surgeon will listen to you about what you wish to achieve focusing on shape and volume. They will then examine and assess your chest frame to determine what range of implants are suitable for you to compliment your body shape without risk of long term poor cosmetic results.

Implants vary by brand, surface texture, volume and projection. The choices available within each of these categories can be extensive. The right implant for you will be based on a collaborative discussion between you and your surgeon to select the right implant, volume, shape and projection to be the best fit to meet your cosmetic needs.

Same day cosmetic surgery is generally very safe. Your surgeon will discuss with you specific risks which will be related to the surgery that is to be undertaken and the individual risks that may be more specific to you. This can often be related to any other medical conditions you have or if you are a smoker.

Following surgery you are observed for 2-4 hours afterwards to ensure you have recovered from the anaesthetic and there are no immediate post operative complications. If you are then deemed fit to be discharged you will be able to leave with further post operative instructions to guide you at home and also contact details should you experience any problems at home and need further medical advice. You will be required to have a responsible adult stay with you for the first night after surgery to be eligible to be discharged on the same day of your surgery.

The purpose of cosmetic and reconstructive surgery is different. Cosmetic surgery has a goal of improving the cosmetic appearance by complimenting and modifying the shape and/or size of your natural breasts. Reconstructive surgery is primarily considered for patients who may require or have a mastectomy(removal of all breast tissue). This can be for a number of reasons but primarily is for the treatment of breast cancer or risk reduction if patients have a gene defect making them much more at risk of developing breast cancer. Reconstructive surgery involves the recreating of a breast mound and shape. The cosmetic goals in reconstructive surgery can be quite different to cosmetic breast surgery due to the effects of cancer treatments and the loss of all breast tissue often preventing an optimal natural appearance to be achieved.

Both types of surgery can use implants and fat grafting but reconstructive surgery can also be undertaken by moving your own tissue from another area to recreate the breast.

If you are experiencing a breast symptom such as a new lump, skin or nipple change, nipple discharge, breast shape change, armpit lumps or breast/chest swelling in men then this clinic appointment will aim to address these and other breast symptoms. I will undertake a detailed assessment of the symptoms, screen for the need for genetic risk assessment and examine you. Based on this I will give you a clear explanation of that assessment.

I will inform you as to any diagnosis reached or the need for any imaging, which could be a breast ultrasound or mammogram to help reach that diagnosis. This may also be complimented by a tissue biopsy to confirm any diagnosis. Following any diagnosis I will discuss with you a plan of treatment or reassurance as necessary.

Breast symptoms are extremely common and can range from noticing a difference in the appearance or texture of your breasts to new lumps, nipple changes and breast pain. All breast symptoms should be reviewed by either your GP or a breast surgeon. However this does not mean to say that your symptom is likely to represent a worrying change such as cancer.

MOST breast symptoms are either the result of a normal variation in the tissues that comprise your breast or to a family of conditions that are collectively called benign breast disease. In my breast reassurance clinic I will be able to assess you and provide a diagnosis and explanation for your symptoms or if necessary, further assess the symptoms if a cancer is suspected. It is much more likely your breast symptoms are not due to breast cancer but please do be assessed for any new symptoms.

Choosing to have breast augmentation is a very personal decision. Your surgeon should guide you through this process. By doing this they should help you to decide firstly whether it is right for you and then guide you through your vision for the final look and how to achieve it. I always aim to really understand what the final desired appearance is wanted right up to the smallest detail. We discuss this based on the shape including cleavage, appearance in and out of clothes and then also volume. Following this discussion to achieve your look we may also discuss performing a small uplift as well as the use of implants.

I will always be honest about what can be expected and whether your vision of the final look is possible and responsible to achieve whilst respecting your body shape and frame. A library of my work will also be available for you to view. Beyond this it is also crucial that your surgeon discusses with you the potential risks of the surgery which should include short term and what may happen in the long term. With this entire discussion you will develop a rapport and relationship with your surgeon. You can then decide if that surgeon is the right one for you or not.

Breast augmentation surgery can be undertaken as a day case procedure. Hence you can go home the same day once you have had a period of observation after surgery. You will be fitted with a surgical bra and a binder which can be purchased by yourself or provided at the hospital. The binder provides gentle pressure from above the implants ensuring they remain in the optimal position whilst healing occurs. Please aim for about 4-6 weeks of recovery before getting back to anything strenuous such as the gym or long runs. If returning to work this can be done after 1-2 weeks but ensure you only undertake light manual labour activities.

I will ask you to wear the surgical bra as much each day and night as possible for 6 weeks to provide the best cosmetic result. Upon review during your recovery I will inform you as to when to remove the binder.

SPECIALIST

Treatments

Breast Reassurance

Breast symptom assessment utilising the national standard of triple assessment (clinical hist...

Breast Cancer Care

Treatment of breast cancer including a full range of oncoplastic and breast reconstruction techniques.

Cosmetic Breast Surgery

Surgery to change the appearance of your breasts adjusting volume, shape and cleavage.