Here’s who qualifies for free breast cancer screening in France

France runs a free screening programme to detect those most at risk of developing breast cancer - here's how it works and who qualifies.

Breast cancer screening is free in France
Breast cancer screening is free in France. Photo: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP

Breast cancer is the most common cancer type among women in France and the leading cause of cancer deaths, and for this reason the public health system runs a nationwide breast screening programme.

Who qualifies

The programme is open to those aged between 50 and 74, the age group where 80 percent of breast cancers occur.

Those younger than 50 are not routinely called for screening, but if you have particular risk factors you can request an examination via your GP or family doctor.

What does it involve?

The appointment involves a detailed breast examination and a mammogram.

Preliminary results are given straight away during the appointment, and then – if all is normal – a second radiographer examines the film later, and definitive results are sent out by post.

How do you get the appointment?

Those in the qualifying age group should be sent a letter inviting them to be screened.

With the letter is a list of approved radiologists in your area, although you are free to choose a radiologist in another area.

Once you get the letter it is then up to you to pick a radiologist and make an appointment directly.

In this video, radiographer Laurent Verzaux explains in more detail what happens at the appointment.

What if I didn’t get the letter?

The letter is sent by the public health system, so if you’re not registered in the French health system you are unlikely to get one. You can still book an appointment directly with a radiographer, but you will have to pay for this.

If you’re resident in France and not registered in the French health system – here’s how to go about it.

If you are registered and still didn’t get a letter, you can contact either your GP or your local Assurance maladie.

Once you have had the first appointment you should be invited for screening every two years while you remain within the qualifying age group.

It’s free?

The screening is completely free. If you need further tests or examinations after the screenings you will pay for these, but they will be 100 percent reimbursed via the carte vitale.

You can find more info here.


Les seins – breasts

Cancer du sein – breast cancer

Le programme du dépistage – the screening programme

Une mammographie – mammogram

Un examen clinique des seins – clinical breast examination

Un cliché – an image (taken of the breast by the mammogram)

Douloureux – painful

Une masse – a lump

Un kyste – cyst

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France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25

Free birth control for all women under 25 will be available in France from Saturday, expanding a scheme targeting under-18s to ensure young women don't stop taking contraception because they cannot afford it.

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25
A doctor holds an interuterine contraceptive device (IUD) before inserting it in a patient. Photo: Adek Berry/AFP

The scheme, which could benefit three million women, covers the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods composed of steroid hormones. Contraception for minors was already free in France.

Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, make contraception free for teens. Britain makes several forms of contraception free to all.

France announced the extension to women under 25 in September, saying surveys showed a decline in the use of contraception mainly for financial reasons.

The move is part of a series of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to boost women’s rights and alleviate youth poverty. The free provision is supported by women’s groups including the association En Avant Tous.

“Between 18 and 25-years-old, women are very vulnerable because they lose a lot of rights compared to when they were minors and are very precarious economically,” spokeswoman Louise Delavier told AFP.

Leslie Fonquerne, an expert in gender issues, said there was more to be done.

“This measure in no way resolves the imbalance in the contraceptive burden between women and men,” the sociologist said.

In some developed countries, the free contraception won by women after decades of campaigning is coming under attack again from the religious right.

In the United States, former president Barack Obama’s signature health reform, known as Obamacare, gave most people with health insurance free access to birth control.

But his successor Donald Trump scrapped the measure, allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage on religious grounds — a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.

Poland’s conservative government has also heavily restricted access to emergency contraception as part of its war on birth control.