Breast Referrals

It can be daunting being called for a referral after a mammogram or follow-up after seeing a GP about a concern you have with a change in your breasts. This guide should give you confidence to understand the process. If you want to talk with one of our nurses, please give us a call.


What to do if you find a change or are recalled for investigation after a mammogram

If you find a change you are not sure about and are not sure if you need to follow this process, give us a call and one of the team can guide you.

Woman getting a mammogram

A. If you find a change in your breasts

1. Contact your GP surgery – We suggest you don’t ring at 8am with the masses. Wait until later in the day and request a TELEPHONE appointment – do not visit the surgery.

2. When your GP calls, make sure you have ready and to hand a list of your symptoms and any other details you want to share with your doctor. This may include how long you have had symptoms, what the symptoms are, what you have done to monitor (if you have) and anything else you want to discuss with the doctor.

3. On the telephone/video call, make sure you ask them to explain things you don’t quite understand and make notes if necessary. If they are referring you, make sure you ask who will contact you and in what timescale.

4. Remember that during the pandemic, GPs are still actively referring people, the Breast Clinics are open and if the GP thinks further investigation is required, they will act!

While you wait, if you would like to talk to one of the team at Lady McAdden, they will support you through this process if you need them to.

B. What to expect from your GP?

They have seen and heard it all before so try not to be embarrassed or scared. There are many reasons that there may be changes to your breasts, most of which are NOT breast cancer!

They will ask you how you found the changes, why you think there are changes, they may even ask for a picture (particularly if it is a rash). Sometimes they will ask you to monitor the changes and if you need help with this, then let us know as our Breast Awareness nurses can help you with this.

GPs all follow guidance about whether to refer you to a breast clinic. This guidance also includes an outline of how quickly someone should be seen. We’ve provided the link to that guidance so that you can read it for yourself here.

C. If you have been recalled for investigation following a mammogram

If any abnormality is found on a mammogram, then you may be called for investigation. This process is the same for someone who is referred by a GP. If you have a history of lumps or calcifications, and if you have had previous mammograms before, these will also be compared prior to you being recalled.

Then what happens?

If you have been referred to a breast clinic, firstly don’t panic.

The normal turnaround time to be seen is within 14 days, but with the pandemic this can take longer. Some clinics are working differently from others, so follow the individual guidelines where you live. If they offer you an appointment very quickly then take it and don’t panic, it just means they are trying to be efficient and see people as quickly as they can.

Remember: most people who visit the clinic will NOT have breast cancer. However it is very important that you attend your appointment so you can be fully assessed.


During the Coronavirus pandemic, clinics usually ask you to attend on your own and not arrive more than 5 minutes before your appointment time. This is to prevent the spread of the virus and to protect both you and the staff helping you. If you need special assistance, advise them when you make your appointment.

You may undertake one or all of the following tests

1. Mammogram
2. Ultrasound
3. Core Biopsy
4. Needle Biopsy

This may be in no particular order and you will be asked to fill in a questionnaire before you are seen by a specialist or nurse. This will include questions about your family history relating to breast problems, any medicines you are taking (including HRT, contraceptive pill) and details of any breast related surgery (including reductions and implants)

As part of the physical breast examination you may be asked to change into a gown or undress from your waist upwards. The doctor or nurse may feel your breasts whilst both sitting and lying down. It is normal for them to also feel your lymph nodes (glands) under your arms (axilla) and around your neck area. Physical examinations are not required in all cases.

Multiple tests may be required to get a full diagnosis and most breast clinics are working as one-stop shops where all the tests may be carried out at the same clinic. Further imaging, like MRI scans, may require multiple visits. Core biopsies take about a week to get results, so bear this in mind if you are expecting an immediate diagnosis.

If you leave the clinic without answers, then do make sure you know who is contacting you and when your next appointment should take place, or when your next appointment is scheduled for. If you have a positive diagnosis, then make sure you have written down this information as it is difficult to remember when you have just received news.

If you are being recalled following routine screening, then try not to worry too much as about 4/100 are recalled. This is more usual after your first ever mammogram because there are no others to compare it with. Something that may not look quite right may be perfectly normal for you. Sometimes this recall is because the initial images were not clear, and this called a technical recall. You are usually notified of a recall within two weeks of your routine mammogram screening by letter.


Additional Support

It is very normal to feel concerned about being referred to a breast clinic. Some of our team have experienced this personally so they understand how you feel. Our nurses are able to talk things through and answer technical questions, about breast health or cancer-related so please ask any questions you have, however silly you may feel they are. We are here to listen and support you – it’s what we do best.

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