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

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

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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.

Vocab

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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