Breast screening: programme overview

Read an overview of the NHS breast screening programme (BSP), and learn how to contact the programme.

Screening is the process of identifying people who appear healthy but may be at increased risk of a disease or condition.

The NHS breast screening programme (BSP) is an NHS population screening programme.

Screening is different to diagnosis and there will always be some false positive and false negative results.

The NHS BSP offers screening to all women aged from 50 to their 71st birthday.

NHS.UK has more information for patients, including:

  • an introduction to the disease
  • symptoms
  • incidence
  • mortality rates

Information leaflets

Healthcare professionals can use leaflets to explain the programme to women.

Evidence and recommendations

The UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) assesses evidence and makes recommendations for population screening programmes to the 4 UK governments.

Providing prompt care

Healthcare professionals must use the BSP professional documents to give a consistent and competent service.


All commissioners must follow the service specification and supporting documents to ensure a fit for purpose programme is set up.

Screening invitations

Eligible women, aged from 50 to their 71st birthday, receive an invitation letter explaining:

  • the programme
  • the benefits and risks of breast screening

Women do not always receive an invitation when they turn 50. They can expect their invitation within 3 years of their 50th birthday.

Women cannot walk in and request breast screening unless they are 71 or over when they can request screening every 3 years.

Age extension

In some areas, women aged 47 to 49 and 71 to 73 receive invitations for screening. This is part of a study looking at whether to extend the breast screening age range.

Higher risk women

Women identified as having a higher risk of breast cancer should receive:

  • a formal assessment
  • the opportunity to discuss risk management options

Education and training

Read about the education and training for healthcare professionals working in breast screening.

This includes e-learning and other training resources.

Contact the screening team

NHS population screening helpdesk

PHE Screening
Floor 5
Wellington House
133-155 Waterloo Road


The helpdesk is not for media enquiries and does not have access to screening results. For queries about results, contact your GP or local screening service. Order screening leaflets at

Published 1 June 2015