Breast Cancer Screening

EUROPA DONNA advocates for population-based mammography screening programmes adhering to the European Guidelines for Quality Assurance in Breast Cancer Screening and Diagnosis. Attending screening has been shown to reduce the number of deaths from breast cancer by up to 35% for women between the ages of 50 and 69.

Breast Cancer Screening

Mammography is widely accepted as the best method to spot breast cancer early, before it becomes detectable to the touch. When you have a mammogram, a radiographer places your breast between two large plates on the mammography machine. These plates compress the breast while an X-ray is taken. Although compression can be uncomfortable, it is necessary to create good, readable images, to reduce blur, to spread out the tissue and to reduce the dose of radiation. The radiographer should take two pictures of each breast, one from top to bottom and the other from side to side.

Once the mammograms are taken, they are read by a radiologist. The European Guidelines for Quality Assurance in Breast Cancer Screening and Diagnosis recommend that each mammogram should be read by two separate radiologists.

Mammograms can be taken on film, like a photograph, or using a digital system, where your files can be stored in a computer. If you have already had a mammogram, the radiologist should compare the previous films or files with the current ones to check for any changes in your breasts.

Ultrasound may also be used to obtain further images, particularly if you are younger or have dense breasts.

If you are between the ages of 50 and 69, you should receive an invitation for mammography screening every two years as part of a screening programme offered by your public health system. This is stipulated in the European Guidelines and is in keeping with both IARC recommendations and the European Council Recommendation on Cancer Screening.

Mammography screening should be carried out in conjunction with a specialist breast unit, as stipulated in the European Guidelines, to ensure access to a multidisciplinary team for diagnosis and treatment if necessary.

The First Report on the Implementation of the Council Recommendation on Cancer Screening published in June 2008 states that in 2007 population-based screening programmes were running or being established in 22 EU Member States (Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom). Click here to access the full report.

If population-based mammography screening does not yet exist in your country or area, you should discuss your options with your physician.