FAQ 4

Why doesn't the NHS screen younger women?

Conventional mammograms are not as effective in younger women because the density of the breast tissue makes it more difficult to detect problems and also because the incidence of breast cancer is lower. As women go past the menopause, the glandular tissue in their breast "involutes" and the breast tissue is increasingly made up of only fat. This is clearer on the mammogram and makes interpretation more reliable. It can be compared with trying to spot a small bird in a tree - it's easier when there are no leaves on the branches!

Digital mammography is better for screening younger women and denser breasts. It is equally effective as conventional mammography in post menopausal women.

By 2012 the NHS Breast Screening Programme will be extended to invite women from the age of 47.

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