Information for the public
Information and support for women having surveillance
Your healthcare professional should discuss your individual situation with you to help you decide whether to have a mammogram or an MRI scan, or both if you are eligible. You should be given written information about the benefits and risks of mammograms and MRI scans.
The possibility that a mammogram or MRI scan might give a 'false positive' result. A false positive result would indicate breast cancer when in fact there is no cancer. This may cause worry and lead to unnecessary treatment.
The possibility that the results of the mammogram or MRI scan might not be clear and other tests or scans might be needed. These may turn out to be negative (no cancer present), but can be uncomfortable and cause worry.
The possibility that a mammogram or MRI scan might give a 'false negative' result. A false negative result would indicate no cancer when in fact a cancer has been missed.
The risks of being exposed to radiation (X-rays) during the mammogram.
The likelihood that any cancer will be detected at an early stage when it is smaller. This may improve the chance of completely removing the cancer and may mean that you need less treatment.
If you decide to have surveillance, you should be given details of what the scans will involve and how long your surveillance programme will last. The breast care team should make sure you know and understand the reasons for any changes to your surveillance programme. Reasons might include another member of the family developing breast cancer, a faulty gene being identified in the family or a change because you no longer need the same surveillance programme now that you are older. For more information about surveillance for women without breast cancer but a moderate or high risk, see the table in the section called early detection of breast cancer by surveillance.