Breast cancer affects many women across Australia every year. However, with regular breast screening, the chances of successful detection, treatment, and survival significantly increase. Because information is power, let’s look at the importance, benefits, and limitations of breast screening [AKA mammographic screening and mammogram] so you can make informed decisions about your health.


The Importance of Breast Screening

  • Early Detection: Mammographic screening is the gold standard for detecting breast cancer in its early stages, even before any symptoms manifest. Early detection often means the cancer is small and less likely to have spread.
  • Reduced Mortality: Regular breast screening for women aged 50 to 74 has been shown to reduce the number of breast cancer-related deaths.
  • Effective Treatment: Screening mammograms enables the early detection of breast cancer, allowing for more effective and less invasive treatment options.A poised woman with glasses sitting comfortably on a chair, dressed in white, with a thoughtful expression.

Who Should Undergo Screening?

  • Age Criteria: BreastScreen Victoria (BSV) is a free service for women with no breast symptoms. Women aged 50 to 74-years-old are invited to have a breast screen every two years. If you notice breast changes you should see your doctor as soon as possible. They may send you for a diagnostic mammogram, which looks at your specific problem.
  • Extended Eligibility: While the target age group is 50 to 74, women aged 40 to 49 can still receive mammograms. However, their breast density may make X-rays less effective. Women over 75 can continue to have breast screens.

Limitations of Breast Screening

  • Accuracy: While mammograms are highly effective, they are not infallible. In a small number of cases, women may undergo more tests than necessary. Very occasionally a mammogram may not find a breast cancer that is present.
  • Psychological Impact: Some women may experience anxiety or distress related to screening outcomes or subsequent follow-up tests.
  • Overdiagnosis: Screening may detect cancers that would not have posed a threat during a woman’s lifetime, leading to unnecessary treatment.

Checking Your Breasts

Whether you undergo a breast screen or not, prioritise your breast health by checking your breasts regularly for lumps and abnormalities. Become familiar with the look and feel of your breasts at different times of the month. Be thorough; check all breast tissue — both the surface and deep into the breast [see here for a 3-step breast check].

Breast changes to look out for include:

  • A newfound lump or areas of lumpiness.
  • Changes in the shape or size of your breast or nipple.
  • Crusting, ulceration or redness of the nipple, or recent nipple inversion.
  • Nipple discharge.
  • Changes to skin texture, such as redness or dimpling.
  • Persistent breast soreness or discomfort that persists over time.

Breast Screen Victoria's LogoMost breast changes don’t equal cancer, but it’s important to contact your doctor to discuss anything out of the ordinary. For more information about breast screening visit BreastScreen Victoria.

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