Organisation of breast screening at Breast Test Wales
We have written this to explain how we identify women to invite for screening. It is aimed to help women who have not yet been invited for screening, or those who may already have breast cancer, understand how we are organised and why invitations arrive when they do.
What is Breast Test Wales (BTW)?
Breast Test Wales (BTW), part of Public Health Wales NHS Trust, is responsible for the NHS breast screening programme in Wales. We work with General Practices and Trusts across Wales to deliver the programme to women resident in Wales including:
- mammographic screening
- assessment by specialists
- some surgery
- examination of cells and tissue in laboratories.
The screening test is a mammogram, a set of X-rays of the breasts. It is a service for women without symptoms of breast disease.
We strongly encourage women to see their GPs if they have any unusual changes in their breasts even if they have been recently screened.
How does BTW know which women to invite?
When people register with General Practitioners, their names, addresses, dates of birth and other data are held centrally on a computer database. This database is used for a number of reasons including the organisation of invitations for both breast and cervical screening. The Welsh Assembly Government has given BTW the responsibility for inviting all eligible women for breast screening.
Who should be invited?
All women in the target age group have the right to be offered screening within the national programme. BTW is committed to offering all eligible women in Wales the opportunity to be screened, regardless of disability, race, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religious beliefs, domestic circumstances or social and employment status.
In most parts of the United Kingdom the breast screening programmes invite doctors’ practices for screening in turn, so that a woman does not necessarily get an invitation in the year that she turns 50. However, the programme does try to ensure that all women are invited before their 53rd birthday.
BTW sends automatic invitations to women in the target age group and women over that age are encouraged to ask for an appointment every three years. Some women may not wish to participate and if they let BTW know in writing, their records are marked so that they are not invited again, unless they change their minds.
Carers for women with special needs cannot normally withdraw consent on the woman’s behalf, although BTW will consider every request sympathetically.
Women who have breast cancer diagnosed before they are 50 years old are still eligible for invitation. These women may wish to opt out of the screening programme while under follow up or may wish to continue being invited so that they can attend when this follow up stops.
Receiving unwanted invitations
We try to make sure that invitations are sent out correctly. Details are checked with the women’s General Practices before being sent out. Occasionally, we have the wrong information about women who have recently moved or died as it takes a little time for this information to reach the central database. This may result in an unwanted invitation being sent to a woman.
Women are sometimes upset when they receive an invitation if they have been recently diagnosed with breast cancer or suffering other problems. We are sorry to cause distress but we must always invite women unless they let us know that they do not wish to receive an invitation.
Women with a family history of breast cancer
We offer screening to younger women who have been assessed by the Cancer Genetics Service in Wales and found to have an increased risk of developing breast cancer due to their family history.
Women at moderate risk will receive an annual invitation from the age of 40, until they become eligible for the NHS Breast Screening Programme, when they will be invited automatically every three years.
Women at high risk will receive an annual invitation from age 35 until they become eligible, then invitations at intervals of 18 months until age 60. From age 60, they will be invited at three yearly intervals, as part of the NHS Breast Screening Programme.
The screening will be done at Breast Test Wales' Screening Centres, which are in Cardiff, Llandudno and Swansea. An appointment will be given at the Screening Centre which is nearest to the woman’s GP practice. Screening will not be available on Breast Test Wales' mobile units.