Breast screening

A femal Radiographer from NHS Scotland

Why does the NHS offer breast screening?

The NHS offers breast screening to reduce the number of women who die from breast cancer. Screening does this by finding breast cancers at an early stage when they are too small to see or feel.

Breast screening does not prevent you from getting breast cancer.

Screening saves lives from breast cancer, but it does have some risks. Some women who have screening will be diagnosed and treated for breast cancer that would never otherwise have been found or caused them harm.

Who is offered breast screening in Scotland and how often?

The Scottish breast screening programme invites all women between the age of 50 and 70 for breast screening approximately every 3 years.

This is because evidence tells us:

  • the risk of developing breast cancer increases with age — 8 out of 10 breast cancers are found in women aged 50 and over.
  • that finding breast cancer is most effective using breast x-rays (mammograms) in woman who have reached menopause.

Screening appointments

When you get your appointment will depend on which GP practice you are registered with. This may mean that you're invited at different times to other women your age. Don’t worry if your invitation doesn’t come through as soon as you turn 50, your GP practice only takes part in the screening programme every 3 years so you may not receive your first invitation until you’re nearly 53. If you haven’t received your first invitation by your 53rd birthday, contact your local screening centre.

Woman over the age of 70

Invitations to the Scottish breast screening programme aren't sent to people over the age of 70, but you do remain at risk of developing breast cancer at that age so are welcome to attend every 3 years.

You should still regularly check your breasts for changes and contact your GP if you are concerned.

To make a breast screening appointment, contact your local screening centre.

Deciding whether to attend breast screening

Making a decision to attend screening is a personal choice. If you are trying to decide whether to go for breast screening, you may find it helpful to review the information on this website, including

You can also:

  • Contact us on 0800 22 44 88 (textphone 18001 0800 22 44 88; the helpline also provides an interpreting service)
  • Talk to your friends and family who have already attended.

If I choose not to go for screening

Please call the screening centre to let them know that you will not be attending your appointment. If you later decide to attend screening, you will be able to make a new appointment.

You will be invited for screening again in three years. If you do not want to be invited again, ask the screening centre for a disclaimer form so that your name can be removed from the system.

If you change your mind at any time, you can ask to be added back onto the system. Your decision will not affect and breast cancer care you receive from your GP or hospital.


All women, at any age should regularly check their breasts for any changes. This includes those under the age of 50 and even those who take part in the screening programme. See the ‘be breast aware’ page for helpful information on how to check yourself.

Detect breast cancer early

Did you see the successful breast cancer signs and symptoms campaign with Elaine C. Smith? Elaine is back, this time with the breast screening campaign that aims to increase uptake of appointments. For more information, visit the Get Checked Early website.

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