Breast Screening
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Breast Screening

Why was the Breast Screening Programme set up?

In Malta, around 300 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. The aim of breast screening is to find breast cancers early, with a greater chance of successful treatment.

When am I eligible for breast screening?
Breast screening is currently offered to all women aged between 50 and 69 years of age every two and a half years.

What does the screening test involve? What will happen on the day?
Breast screening involves having a mammogram, which is an X-ray of the breasts. The screening mammogram is carried out at the National Screening Centre by a female radiographer. It involves compression of the breast for a few seconds. The mammogram takes a few minutes to be carried out, so a breast screening appointment generally lasts about 30 minutes in all.

On arriving at the Screening Centre, reception staff will require a means of identification such as ID card, driving licence or passport to confirm your details.  When you are called in to the mammography room by the radiographer, they will start by explaining the procedure and giving you some time to undress to the waist. The radiographer will then place your breast on the mammogram machine and gently but firmly lower a plate onto it. This helps keep the breast in place to ensure the mammogram images are clear. In most cases two images of each breast are taken, one from above and one from the side of the breast. 

Compression of the breast is necessary for the images to be clear. Most women describe the procedure as uncomfortable and a few find it painful. The discomfort is brief as compression is only maintained for a few seconds for each image.


What are the potential benefits and risks of breast screening?
A mammogram can detect small changes in breast tissue which may indicate cancers that are too small to be felt either by the woman herself or by a doctor. If breast cancer is detected at an early stage it is less likely that there is a need for mastectomy (removal of the breast) 

The main risk of breast screening is that it may also pick up certain abnormal changes in the breast that would never have gone on to develop to cancer. This may result in unnecessary tests, treatment and anxiety. Mammography is a type of x-ray and it involves exposing the breasts to a small amount of radiation. This is significantly less than the natural background radiation that a person is exposed to in one year.  

Most experts agree that regular breast screening is beneficial in recognising breast cancer early

Do I need to call before I come for my appointment?
You should contact the Screening Centre on 2122 7470/1 before your appointment in these cases:​
  • ​If you would like to change your appointment
  • If you have had a mammogram in the last 12 months
  • If you are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • If you are already being seen by a specialist for a breast condition
  • If you have had a bilateral mastectomy and all breast tissue has been removed
  • If you have a physical disability that may make it difficult for you to be positioned on the X-ray machine and hold that position for several seconds (you will need to support your upper body without assistance)

Is there anything I need to do to prepare for breast screening?
On the day of the mammogram:
  • Do not use deodorant, talc or creams around the breast area
  • Since you have to undress to the waist for the mammogram to be carried out, you may prefer to wear a skirt or trousers instead of a dress
  • Bring your identity card and the contact details (name and telephone number) of your family doctor with you
  • Bring any previous mammograms taken in the private sector if available (e.g. mammograms stored on CD)
  • Non-Maltese residents are required to present the European Health Insurance Card or a recent payslip showing National Insurance contribution
  • If you have breast implants or think you might be pregnant, inform the radiographer before taking the mammogram

When will I know my results? What happens next?
Screening mammograms are reviewed by two radiologists independently. In the case of normal results, these are sent by post after around three weeks. 

In some cases, further tests may be required because mammogram images were unclear or an abnormality is suspected. In these situations, the woman will be contacted by phone and given an appointment to attend the weekly recall clinic. 

At the recall clinic, further mammogram images, breast ultrasound and if necessary even a biopsy (taking a sample of breast tissue) may be taken, according to the individual case. Imaging results are reviewed by a radiologist during the recall clinic and you will be informed of the result shortly after the images are taken. If a biopsy is taken, an appointment is given to discuss the biopsy results with a breast surgeon at the Screening Centre.

If breast cancer is diagnosed, you will be referred to the Breast Clinic at Mater Dei Hospital for specialised care. 

I fall within the age group eligible for breast screening, but I have not received an invitation. What should I do?
If you fall within the age group eligible for screening (50 to 69 years of age) but have not received a screening invitation, you can call the Screening Centre for an appointment. 

Who can I contact if I have any questions about breast screening?
If you have any questions or difficulties regarding breast cancer screening, one may contact the Screening Centre on 
Telephone: 2122 7470/1 between 8.30am – 2.45pm
Facebook: Malta National Health Screening Centre
Address:  17, Lascaris Wharf, Valletta, VLT 1921.

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