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Beds and Herts Breast Screening Service
Luton and Dunstable NHS Hospital


Age Extension National Pilot (47- 49 yrs and 71- 73 yrs)

The updated Cancer Reform Strategy (DH, 2011) outlines the Government's plans to run a national pilot to extend the Breast Screening Programme to women aged 47-49 years and 71-73 years. This will take place over two consecutive three-year screening rounds.

The aim of the pilot is to explore the benefits of women receiving two extra screening invitations in their lifetime and for women to receive their first screening invitation by their 50th birthday.

Under the guidance of the Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer Screening (ACBCS), each woman selected will receive a standard invitation for screening plus the Cancer Screening Programme leaflet which will be revised to take account of the latest evidence on breast cancer screening and informed choice.

As part of the national randomised control trial only 50% of women from either the 47-49 age group or the 71-73 age group will be selected to receive a screening invitation. As usual, women in the 50-70 age group, will continue to be invited every three years.

If you have any queries with regards to the Breast Screening Age Extension Programme please contact us on 01582 497599.


1) - I’m aged 47 and live in an area where age extension has started. Some local friends of the same age have been invited for screening, but I haven’t. Why not?

There are two possible reasons:

  • The GP practice you are registered with has not yet been called for screening. Your invitation will arrive when your GP practice is next due to be included

  • The GP practice is being invited but you are not among the group of women aged 47-50 who are receiving invitations

Women in your age group are being selected for screening by a new, randomised, process that allows us to monitor the impact of screening on younger women. If your name has not been included in this random selection but you would like to be screened, simply contact your GP. When you reach the age of 50, these special arrangements will no longer apply. Instead, you will be screened as part of our routine breast screening programme (for women aged 50-70). For details, visit www.cancerscreening.nhs.uk/breastscreen/index.html

You may live in an area where the age extension has not been introduced. In this case you cannot be screened before your first routine invitation, which should arrive between your 50th and 53rd birthday.

2) - I am aged 51 and have not been invited for screening, but I have a friend aged 48 who has. Why is this?

The NHS Breast Screening Programme routinely invites women for screening who are aged 50-70. However screening is currently being extended to include women aged 47-49 and 71-73. Your friend will have been invited as part of this age extension. Women already older than 49 will join out routine breast screening programme and receive their first screening invitations between their 50th and 53rd. See also 1 above.

3) - I am aged 49 and have been invited for screening. I am worried that the extra screening appointments I will have as part of the age extension means that I will have more radiation exposure from the x-rays. Can you advise me?

The age extension means that women will, eventually, have the NHS Breast Screening nine times over their lifetime instead of seven: one extra screening aged 47-49 and one aged 71-73. Although this means that you will be exposed to x-rays more times, there is currently no evidence to suggest that the risk of this extra exposure outweighs the benefits of breast screening.

4) - I am aged 47, and have been invited for breast screening, but I am a) pregnant, or b) having IVF treatment, or c) breast feeding. Should I still be screened?

Breast screening and the radiation from breast x-rays are limited to the breast area and so will not harm an unborn baby or affect IVF treatment. If you are breast feeding, you may find screening more uncomfortable or painful. You should tell the mammographer if you are breast feeding, as this sometimes means that x-rays can be unclear.

5) - I have breast implants. Can I still be screened?

You can still be screened if you have breast implants, but the implants may mean that some of your breast tissue is not visible on the mammogram. You should tell the mammographer if you have implants as more pictures might be necessary to ensure that as much breast tissue as possible is seen. There is no evidence that squeezing the breast to take the x-rays harms the implants. If you have had Macrolane injected into your breasts please tell the mammographer as this can give a false reading.

You can read our leaflet about breast screening for women with breast implants by assessing:

6) - I am aged 47, and have a family history of breast cancer. Can I be screened more often than every three years?

Almost all women of screening age are screened every three years. Only women who have been assessed by a specialist as being at very high risk of breast cancer may be advised to be screened more often. Not all women with a family history of cancer are at increased risk. If you are concerned about a family history of cancer, however, and have not been assessed by a specialist, then you should speak to your GP. He or she will refer you to a specialist if necessary.