1. What to expect at the breast clinic
2. When will I get my results?
3. Being recalled to the breast clinic following a routine screening mammogram
4. Being referred to a breast clinic by your GP
5. Further support
If you’ve been referred to a breast clinic by your GP or if you’ve been recalled following routine breast screening, it’s natural to feel anxious or worried.
The vast majority of people who are seen at a breast clinic will not have breast cancer. However, it’s still important to attend your breast clinic appointment so you can be fully assessed.
Find out more below about why you might have been referred to a breast clinic by your GP or recalled following routine screening, and how long you will wait for an appointment. You can also learn more about routine breast screening.
How coronavirus may affect your breast clinic appointment
Measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus and pressures on the NHS mean some breast clinic appointments are not going ahead as planned.
Your breast clinic appointment may take several hours so that all the necessary tests can be carried out. You will usually have a breast examination, followed by one or more of the following tests:
The order in which the tests are done will vary between clinics.
You can take a partner, friend or relative with you for company and support. Some people prefer to go on their own.
You may be asked to fill in a short questionnaire before you are seen by a doctor or specialist nurse. This includes questions about:
- any family history of breast problems
- any medicines you’re taking, including hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or the contraceptive pill
- any previous breast surgery, including breast implants
During your breast examination, the doctor or nurse may want to check both your breasts when you are sitting, and again when you are lying down. As part of the examination, it’s normal to examine the lymph nodes (also called glands) under your arm (axilla) and around your neck.
If you have been referred from a breast screening clinic, you may not have a breast examination.
Having a breast examination, breast imaging (for example, a mammogram or an ultrasound scan) and tissue removal (for example, a core biopsy or FNA) is known as a triple assessment. This may be necessary to make a definite diagnosis.
Your assessment may be done in a one-stop clinic. This is where all tests are carried out during your visit to the clinic.
Some test results may be available later that day, but if you have a core biopsy this will take longer. In some areas, you may be asked to make another appointment to finish your tests or to get your results. If this happens, you may have to wait about a week for your test results.
About four women in a hundred are called back to a breast clinic following routine screening because they need more tests. This happens more often after a woman’s first mammogram, usually because there are no other mammograms to compare with. Something that may look unusual on your mammogram may be entirely normal for you, and most women who are recalled for assessment will not have breast cancer.
Sometimes you may be recalled because the image taken isn’t clear and needs to be repeated. This is called a ‘technical recall’ and should be made clear in your letter.
If you’ve been recalled to a breast clinic after a routine mammogram as part of a national breast screening programme, you should receive a letter within two weeks of your mammogram explaining when (and where) your breast clinic appointment will be.
GPs follow guidance when deciding whether or not to refer you to a breast clinic. The guidance outlines how quickly a person should be seen depending on their symptoms.
If you have any queries about the waiting time for your appointment, talk to your GP.
If you’ve been referred to a breast clinic, it is natural to feel worried or frightened that you have breast cancer. If you want to talk things through or have a question about breast health or breast cancer, you can call our free Helpline or email our nurses. You can also order our free booklet Your breast clinic appointment.
View the PDF below for a simple illustrated summary of what happens at a breast clinic.