Breast screening information
Breast screening helps find cancer at an early stage. If it’s found early, it’s easier to treat and there’s a better chance of recovery.
Breast screening involves having a mammogram of your breasts at a BreastCheck clinic or mobile screening unit. A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast used to find breast cancer when it is too small to see or feel.
You'll get a letter with your breast screening results within 3 weeks after your mammogram. The results will also be sent to your GP.
Most results are normal and no cancer is found.
Breast screening does not find all breast cancer. But screening has been proven to lower the number of women dying from breast cancer.
When will I be offered breast screening?
You will become eligible for breast screening once you reach the age of 50. Your first invitation will depend on when screening is available in your area. This will be within two years of your 50th birthday.
Your details should automatically be on our register. You can check that your name is on the register or update your details.
The risk of breast cancer increases as you get older, all women between the ages of 50 and 69 are invited to take a mammogram every 2 years.
The incidence and mortality from breast cancer in this age group means that it is effective to screen women between the ages of 50 and 69.
You will remain eligible for breast screening up to the age of 69. After this, you need to continue to be aware of any symptoms of breast cancer.
You should speak to your GP if you're worried about symptoms of breast cancer. Screening is only for women who appear healthy or have no symptoms.
It is important that every woman is breast aware. This means knowing what is normal for you so that if any unusual change occurs, you will recognise it. The sooner you notice a change the better because if cancer is found early, treatment is more likely to be successful. Get into the habit of looking at and feeling your breasts at least on a monthly basis.
Techniques for checking your breasts
Look for changes by using a mirror so that you can see the breasts from different angles.
Feel for changes: An easy way of feeling your breast is in the bath or shower. Some women prefer to feel for changes while lying down.
Preventing breast cancer
The causes of breast cancer aren't fully understood, making it difficult to say why one woman may develop breast cancer and another may not.
There are risk factors known to affect your likelihood of developing breast cancer. Some of these you can't do anything about, but there are some you can change.
Alcohol is responsible for 1 in 8 breast cancers in Ireland.
Your risk of developing breast cancer can increase with the amount of alcohol you drink.
If you've experienced the menopause and are overweight or obese, you may be more at risk of developing breast cancer.
Studies have shown women who breastfeed are statistically less likely to develop breast cancer than those who don't.
There is more information on things you can do to prevent breast cancer on our symptoms, diagnosis and prevention section.
If you have any symptoms of breast cancer
Screening will not pick up all cancers. Cancer can occur at any time, including between your screening appointments.
Always see a GP right away if you have any symptoms of breast cancer.
Symptoms of breast cancer can include:
- a lump in either breast
- discharge from either of your nipples (which may be streaked with blood)
- a lump or swelling in either of your armpits
- a change in the size or shape of one or both breasts
- 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