PUBLISHED ON: 18 August 2020

In March, most breast screening services were suspended due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Breast screening is now restarting across the UK. Although it may take longer to resume in some areas than others, with many screening units sending out invitations again in July.

If you were due to attend screening at any point since March, you should receive another invitation. Women are being invited in the following order to ensure those who have been waiting the longest will be offered an appointment first:

  • Women who already received a screening appointment but were unable to attend or had their appointment cancelled because of coronavirus (COVID-19). This includes women who were invited to attend as part of the screening age extension trial in England (Age X Trial) although recruitment to this has now stopped.
  • Women who were due an appointment during the time screening was suspended 

How long will it take to get my screening invitation?

There is now a significant backlog of appointments following the suspension. Together with the fact that there will initially be fewer appointments than normal for safety reasons, it may take some time for your appointment to come through. Appointments are being prioritised (as described above) so that those women who are at highest risk of developing breast cancer or who have been waiting the longest will be invited first.

Is it safe to go to my breast screening appointment?

Several measures are being put in place to minimise the risk of infection. Staff will be wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and appointments will be more spaced out to ensure that waiting areas are quieter. It’s important that you wear a face covering during your appointment, and try to arrive for your appointment as close to the scheduled time as possible. You will be asked not to bring anyone with you to your appointment, if possible.

The actual screening test (mammogram) will be exactly the same as normal.

Can I ring up and arrange an appointment if my screening was cancelled/is overdue?

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to ring up and schedule an appointment yourself – you will need to wait for your local screening unit to send you an invitation letter. You may have to be patient as it is likely to take some time before screening services are fully restored. Your local screening unit may be able to give you an approximate time that you may have to wait, and you should contact them if you have moved house in the last few months or have changed to a different GP practice.

My screening appointment is due soon – will it be delayed?

Unfortunately, because any upcoming screening appointments are being prioritised for women whose screening is already overdue, it’s likely your appointment will be delayed.

I’m self-isolating – should I go to my appointment?

Do not go to your appointment if you are self-isolating or experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19. You can ring your screening unit and rearrange your appointment for after your self-isolation period. As appointment slots are currently limited, it’s particularly important to let your screening service know if you can’t attend for this or any other reason, so they can give your appointment to someone else.

Why is my screening appointment not in the usual location?

Some mobile screening vans are currently out of action while they are modified to make them fully COVID-safe. If you normally attend screening in one of these vans, you may be asked to attend at an alternative van or clinic building.

I’m over 71, can I still have breast screening?

Normally, you can continue to have breast screening every three years over the age of 71 if you ask for it. Unfortunately, this is not be available at present while breast screening services are still tackling the backlog and returning to normal. 

However, if you’ve turned 71 since screening was suspended in March, and have not been screened in the last three years, it’s likely that you’re still due a final screen and you should receive an invitation in due course.

You should still check your breasts from time to time for any changes that are unusual for you and if you notice anything tell your GP. 

Should I go to my appointment if I am/have been shielding?

We suggest you discuss this with a specialist for your condition. You can also read our information on screening to help you weigh up the benefits and risks of attending.

I’m at high risk of developing breast cancer due to a confirmed family history of breast cancer. Is my annual screening appointment affected?

In some areas, screening for women at high risk has continued throughout the pandemic and may be less affected than routine screening for women aged 50 to 70. Women at high risk who are due their annual screen are considered the highest priority and will be offered the first available screening appointments.

What if I’m worried about developing breast cancer while waiting for my screening appointment?

It’s important to continue checking your breasts regularly and contact your GP if you notice any unusual changes.

Find out more about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.

Breast cancer symptoms and signs