If you are a female, aged over fifty but under the age of seventy, living in the UK, you will be called for breast screening every three years. Your first appointment may not be as soon as you are fifty but will be before you reach the age of fifty three. If you have any concerns, before this appointment is received, contact your healthcare professional.

In 2012 this age range is due to extended to women aged between 47 and 73. This free service has been in operation since 1988 and has saved countless lives.

Your first appointment

The first letter requesting you to attend a breast screening, may fall onto your doormat, a little before you reach the age of fifty. It would seem that one of the more dubious perks of maturing is, that you are more likely to have breast problems after the age of fifty. Something else to thank the menopause for then.

If you are younger but have consulted a doctor about a breast problem, such as a new lump, or something similar which has been worrying you, in your breast, you may also be sent for a mammogram.

This test is sometimes carried out at your local hospital or at a smaller clinic.

Your appointment letter should include some information about mammograms. It should explain why you are having this X ray test, include a brief questionnaire for you answer, explain the success rate and what to expect. Of course, no piece of paper quite prepares you for what to expect.

Here is what I have found, now that I have had a mammogram three times.

After arriving at the clinic, you may find that you have to wait for a few minutes. Take this time to try to relax. Mammograms are not painful or invasive so try to relax.

When you are called through, you will be asked to go into a cubicle and remove the top half of your clothing. There is a short gown for you to put on to cover your modesty, until you have had the test.

A mammogram is a series of X rays, which are taken of your breast or breasts. Once you have had a mammogram the radiologist will have old films, to compare when you are tested again.

There is usually a radiographer and an assistant.

Once in the X ray room you will have to remove your gown. With the aid of the radiographer, you will have to place your arm over the equipment in a specific way. The radiographer knows exactly the position in order to take first class X Rays of your breasts. If you are relaxed the ammogram will be so much easier.

What most women, including me, do not like, is that your breast is rather squashed between two X ray plates. It is not really painful but just very uncomfortable. At one time, I thought the radiographer was going to squeeze my breast until it burst. It certainly brings the colour to your cheeks, and your boobs.

However, once the mammogram has been done your breasts will soon return to normal. There is no painful sensation afterward. Perhaps, this will be different if you have a health problem with your breasts.

I am told that. in some ways, a mammogram is more uncomfortable for skinny women, with very small breasts. Unfortunately or fortunately, that is not me. However, personally I would think that the more breast you have to squash, the more uncomfortable it will be.

Within a couple of minutes you will be asked to return to the waiting room cubicle, The radiographer will ask you to keep wearing the gown, until the films are checked for flaws. If necessary, you will be called back and further films taken. This is not always because of a health issue, but may simply be that the film is not clear.

Once the films are passed as OK, you will be asked to dress and told that you will receive the results through the post in a few weeks time. This time can vary from a couple of weeks to around six weeks. Obviously if there is a problem, you should be called back sooner. So, it is a case of no news is good news.

The reason for writing this article.

There are so many women who do not take up the offer of breast screening. It is such a simple X ray that one can only assume it is fear of the unknown, having to undress and having their breasts X rayed.

This is so silly.

Mammograms save lives. In some cases, they catch a cancer so quickly that the prognosis is far better than if caught later.

There are many embarrassing procedures and tests, which we all have to undergo at some time or another during our lives. I imagine that avoiding a mammogram and developing breast problems will cause far more embarrassing scenarios, pain and trauma in your life.

Be kind to your self and be sensible. Far too many people are literally dying of embarrassment.

Will you be one of them?

Disclaimer-This article is written from personal experience and not by a health care provider.