Breast Screening

Normal results

After a routine mammogram in the NHS Breast Screening Programme, the radiographer (the female specialist who takes the breast x-rays) will tell women how, and approximately when, they will get the results. She also reminds them to be 'breast aware' between screening appointments. If it is the woman's last routine screening before age 70, the radiographer also reminds her that she can ask for another screening appointment in three years' time. She will also give the woman a card to help her remember this.
 
The mammogram is examined and the results sent to the woman and her GP, usually within two weeks. “In about 96 out of every 100 women screened the mammogram will show no sign of cancer -- this is a normal result” (NHS Breast Cancer Screening Programme – 'Helping you decide' leaflet July 2013). Most women we spoke with discussed waiting for and receiving their mammogram results by post. Some received them within two weeks, others sometimes received their results three, four, or even five weeks later.
 
Some women didn't worry about the results until they arrived, when they were a bit nervous opening the letter. Two British Chinese women had their daughters translate the results letter for them and their results had always been normal. A British Indian woman said that her daughter would translate her results letter for her, if she was unsure. One woman said that she didn't usually worry whilst waiting for her results letter but after her last mammogram she did. This was because she was on HRT and had just heard about a report on HRT and breast cancer.

Some women waiting for the results letter were a bit anxious. A few said they would expect the screening unit to contact them straightaway if there were any problems. They therefore felt anxious during the first week after a mammogram but less anxious as time went on. Several women said that they didn't feel anxious waiting for their results but often remembered that they were expecting a letter. One woman waited five weeks to receive her results by post and became more anxious as time went on. The letter said that mistakes were occasionally made, so she also wondered whether she could believe the results.

One woman was particularly concerned waiting for the results of her first mammogram but much more relaxed on other occasions, especially when she'd had a mammogram between the usual three-year interval. Another woman said that she felt slightly concerned because of the radiographer's manner at her last mammogram. However, she also said that levels of anxiety can depend on the experience at the screening unit and how you are feeling on the day.

One woman, who had had mammograms privately before her first one on the NHS, compared her experiences of receiving results on the NHS and privately.

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All women found the results letter easy to understand and were relieved to hear that their results were normal.

Last reviewed March 2016.
Last updated March 2016.

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