If you have a question please check the FAQs below. If you still can’t find the answer you’re looking for then please feel free to contact us and we will be happy to try and help.


Having a Mammogram

What is a mammogram?

A mammogram is an X-ray examination of the breasts and is a method of finding breast cancer at a very early stage. A female mammographer will compress your breasts, one at a time, between two special X-ray plates and take the X-rays. The compression only lasts a few seconds and does not cause any harm to the breasts. Compression is needed to keep the breast still and to get the clearest picture with the lowest amount of radiation possible.


Does a mammogram hurt?

Some women find mammography 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 as long as the mammogram although it may continue for some time in a small number of women.


Who will take my mammogram?

A female mammographer will perform the X-ray.


How long will the mammogram take?

A mammogram takes a few minutes; however your whole visit to the screening unit will take about half an hour.


Are mammograms safe?

Any X-ray involves radiation but mammograms only require a very low dose. It is about the same as the dose a person receives by flying from London to Australia and back. The risk that such a low dose could cause a cancer is far outweighed by the benefits of early detection of breast cancer.


Does breast screening prevent breast cancer?

No. Breast screening aims to find breast cancer at an early stage when it may be too small for you or your doctor to feel. Finding breast cancer early greatly increases your chances of successful treatment.


Where will the mammogram be done?

Your mammogram will be performed at one of our four local screening sites. We will try to arrange your appointment at the site nearest to your GP practice.

  • Breast Unit, Royal Bolton Hospital, Minerva Road, Farnworth, Bolton, BL4 0JR
  • Bolton One, Moor Lane, Bolton, BL3 5BN
  • Radcliffe Primary Care Centre, 69 Church Street West, Radcliffe, Bury, M26 2SP
  • Nye Bevan House, Maclure Road, Rochdale, OL11  1DN


What shall I wear for my appointment?

You will be asked to undress completely down to your waist so it is a good idea to wear a separate top instead of a dress.


Can I bring someone with me?

Yes. Please be aware that there is limited space at some of our screening sites.


When do I get my results?

Your results should be sent to you within two weeks. You will be advised of any expected delays at the time of your screening.



I missed my appointment – how do I get another one?

Please contact the screening unit and we will be happy to make you another appointment.


Can I change the date and time of my appointment?

Yes, please contact the screening unit to alter the date, time or location of your screening appointment.


I have been screened elsewhere shall I still keep my screening appointment?

Please contact us to establish if it is advisable for you to attend for this screening appointment.


I have moved house – what happens to my screening appointment?

If you have notified your GP practice of your new address you will be called for screening when your practice is called. If this is likely to be over three years since your last invitation you will be called separately from your practice to ensure you are screened on time. If you have moved house and fear you may have missed a screening appointment please contact us.


Why have I been sent to a different site this time?

If the site you have been invited to is not convenient then please contact us to request a change of appointment.


I don’t want to be screened, what do I do?

We respect your decision not to be screened, although we would encourage all women to attend for breast screening when invited. However if you choose not to take up your invitation please contact the screening office so your appointment is not wasted.

If you change your mind at any point in the future please contact us. We will be happy to make you another appointment. We do have a disclaimer letter if you would prefer to opt out permanently.



What happens at an assessment clinic appointment

Why have I been invited back?

You have been invited back for further tests because your breast X-rays did not give us enough information and more detail is needed before we can decide on a result.

If the radiologist interpreting the screening mammogram images sees something that is questionable, unclear or abnormal on the images, they ask the patient to come back for further assessment.

This additional appointment is part of routine screening and for most women invited back nothing of concern will be found.


Can I speak to someone for more information before I come?

If you would like specific information about the reason you have been invited back you may find it helpful to speak to one of our breast care nurses. The breast care nurse will have access to your records and will be able to give more personal information. Please feel free to contact us.


How many women are invited back?

About five out of every 100 women who have screening will be invited back for this additional assessment. Four of these five women will be found to have a normal result.


What will happen at the clinic?

You may have some or all of the following tests:

  • Mammograms: most women will have further mammograms in order to show a particular part of the breast in greater detail.
  • Breast examination: the radiologist (a highly specialised doctor) will talk to you about your mammograms, ask you some questions about your general health and will then examine your breasts.
  • Breast ultrasound: ultrasound will be necessary for most women. An ultrasound scan uses sound waves to provide a picture of the breast tissue. It is harmless and pain free and does not involve any X-rays.
  • Needle biopsy: it may be necessary for some women to have a small tissue sample taken from the breast. Local anaesthetic is used to numb the area first.


When will I get the results?

In most cases, the doctor will tell you the results of the tests on the same visit. If a needle sample is taken, you will be given an appointment before you leave for you to receive your results. Usually this will be for a week later.


How long will I be at the clinic?

Your appointment may take between one and four hours. As you are likely to be in the clinic for some time, you may wish to bring a friend or relative to sit with you while you wait.



Timing of Breast Screening

Is three years often enough?

At present three yearly screening is recommended by the NHS Breast Screening Service. This recommendation is based on a review of the evidence.


What should I do between breast screens?

You should continue to be ‘breast aware’, learning what is normal for you and reporting any changes or concerns to your GP without delay. Do not wait until your next mammogram. Breast screening will pick up most but not all breast cancer. For further advice you may wish to visit the Breast Cancer Care website.


I am 75 – can I have an appointment?

Yes. The risk of getting breast cancer increases as women get older and we encourage women over 70 to continue with three yearly screening. All women over the age of 70 need to contact us to arrange an appointment.


Why am I being called for screening again before three years?

From time to time changes to the screening schedule occur to ensure that every woman receives an appointment within three years. This can sometimes result in a small number of women receiving an appointment earlier than expected.


I am under 50 – can I have an appointment?

Currently the breast screening programme does not screen women under the age of 50 except as part of an on-going trial, however, please see the information section on who we screen and when. Women below this age will not be routinely screened.

If you have a family history of breast cancer please see your GP who may refer you to a family history clinic at your local breast unit. The family history clinic will assess your need for extra mammographic screening.


I am 50 – why have I not received my appointment?

Once every three years your GP practice will be contacted and all women between the ages of 50 and 70 will be routinely invited. Not every woman will receive an appointment as soon as she is 50. You will receive your first appointment before your 53rd birthday.


Women with Disabilities

I am disabled – how do I arrange my screening appointment?

Please contact us to discuss your screening appointment, as we would like to allocate more time for your appointment. Your appointment will be made at a location where we have larger rooms and disabled access.


Pacemakers and Breast Implants

I have implants – should I still have a mammogram?

Yes, because you still have breast tissue which should be screened. There is no evidence to suggest breast implants are damaged by mammograms.


I have breast implants – will this affect my mammogram?

Breast implants appear as a solid white area on a mammogram. This may hide some of the breast tissue preventing it from being seen on the X-ray. The film readers will only be able to report on the breast tissue that they can see on your mammogram. If you would like a leaflet about breast implants and mammography, please contact us.


I have a pacemaker – can I have a mammogram?

Yes, it is safe for you to have a mammogram. It is helpful if you can tell the mammographer where your pacemaker is sited.


I have a pacemaker – will this affect my mammogram?

Your pacemaker may hide the small area of breast tissue behind the pacemaker, preventing it from being seen on the X-ray. The film readers will only be able to report on the breast tissue that they can see on your mammogram.


Breast Symptoms

What should I do if I notice any breast changes?

See your GP without delay even if you have had a recent mammogram or are due to have one shortly. Do not wait until your next mammogram.


I have a breast lump – how do I make an appointment?

If you have a breast lump or any other breast symptom you should see your GP, who may organise a referral to your local breast unit.


Family History

I have a family history of breast cancer – do I need to have mammograms more often?

If you think you are in a high risk group, you should discuss this with your GP. He or she can advise you further and may refer you to a family history clinic at your local breast unit.


Breast Cancer Patients

I have had breast cancer in the past – do I still need to come?

Yes, as your risk of breast cancer is slightly higher if you have previously had breast cancer, however if you have had a mammogram in the last six months then please contact us.


Visitor restrictions

To protect you and our staff during the current outbreak of Covid-19 we’ve put in place significant restrictions on hospital visitors.

Full details of these can be found on our website.

We would like to thank you for your understanding and helping us stop the spread of Covid-19.

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