Breast screening services at The London Clinic

Imaging technology at The London Clinic is wide-ranging and comprehensive. Patients can access many types of scanning and imaging methods on-site, with results delivered quickly to consultants who can then use detailed imaging data to make a diagnosis and start a course of treatment.

Regular breast screening can detect breast cancer at an early stage. The earlier that treatment can begin, the better the chance a woman has to survive 20 years, or even longer. Today, breast screening is not just about having a mammogram; new technology and techniques now offer several other imaging options.

Mammograms and breast screening

Mammograms can be done within the National Health Service Breast Cancer Screening Programme, which offers women between 49 and 70 the chance to have breast screening once every 3 years. By 2012, women between 47 and 73 will be included, but the frequency of mammograms will remain the same.

The London Clinic also offers private breast screening and mammography and these can be done in women as young as 40 and at a higher frequency.

Breast screening with digital mammography

Most mammograms done in the UK since 2005 have been produced digitally. This means that the X-ray image of the breast is not transferred to actual X-ray sheets but they are digitised and made available on a computer screen. This allows digital focusing and a clearer image, and the mammogram results can be sent electronically to different radiologists if a second opinion is needed.

Breast screening in younger women

There has been controversy about the benefits of breast screening in women in their 40s. Breast cancer risk increases with age and is rare in women under 50 as well as the fact that breast tissue in women under 40 is too dense for a mammogram to pick up anything useful.

Most breast cancers are not hereditary, but there are 2 gene mutations that can increase cancer risk and can lead to breast cancers in younger women in the same family. Most GPs are alert to this possibility and may recommend genetic testing for women who have more than one close female relative (sister, mother, aunt) who developed breast cancer at a young age. The tests look for mutations in either the BRCA1 gene or the BRCA2 gene. These are linked with a significant increase in breast cancer risk.

The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends that women who have either a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation have breast screening from the age of 30. If you need to start breast cancer screening that early, mammograms are not suitable, but you now have several other options:

  • MRI scanning: this is the breast screening method advised by NICE, but this may be reviewed in the future as new technology is developed.
  • Infrared breast screening: this is a fairly new technique that takes the internal temperature of the breasts as they are forced to cool down by gently blowing cold air on them. The test takes minutes to complete and it needs no injections, no probes and no compression of the breast in an imaging device. There is no radiation either – and infrared breast screening can be used on women of any age.

How does infrared breast screening work?

The principle behind infrared breast screening is that normal breast tissue cools down at a uniform rate. An abnormality such as a breast tumour or a breast cyst causes inflammation around the breast lump, which means this area of breast tissue cools down more slowly.

The infrared breast scanner takes 1000 pictures of the breast over about 5 minutes as cool air is blown at the breasts. Any areas of concern in the breast show up as bright green against the yellow and red background of normal breast tissue.

Infrared breast screening has several advantages over MRI scanning:

  • Infrared breast scanners produce no radiation as they simply detect changes in temperature, so this is a very safe breast screening method
  • Infrared breast screening is a physiological method as well as an imaging technique – it detects biological changes in living tissue, rather than in the appearance of the tissue
  • Using infrared is quick, painless, and you don’t need to lie inside a scanning unit

What happens after breast screening?

Your results will be interpreted by experienced radiologists and you will get a report as quickly as possible. If an area of concern is detected in any type of breast scan, you might then have an ultrasound breast scan or a biopsy.

Many breast lumps and apparent problems detected on a breast scan turn out to be harmless cysts; although it is natural to worry, it is important to bear this in mind.

Making an enquiry

For more information about the private breast screening services at The London Clinic please click here and complete the confidential enquiry form or call +44 (0) 207 616 7693.