Breast screens: what you need to know

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My mammogram: the most important 10 minutes of my life.

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What are screening mammograms?

Screening mammograms are low dose breast x-rays for women without current breast symptoms or changes. Screening mammograms can detect most breast cancers when they are very small � even before they can be felt or noticed. Having regular screening mammograms is the best way to find breast cancer early, when treatment is likely to be most successful.

What if I have breast changes?

If you have noticed an unusual change in your breasts, such as a lump, pain or discharge from the nipple, it is important you visit your doctor as soon as possible, before you make an appointment at BreastScreen Victoria. If you have had breast cancer in the past, you are advised to see your doctor or breast specialist as BreastScreen Victoria may not be suitable for your particular needs.

If I have breast implants? 

If you have breast implants, you are welcome to attend BreastScreen Victoria. Please advise staff when you make your appointment if you have breast implants.

Am I at risk? 

Nine out of 10 women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease. While women with a family history of breast cancer have a higher than average risk, the biggest risk factor for breast cancer is being a woman over 50 years of age. This is the reason why a breast screening mammogram every two years is primarily recommended for women aged 50-69 years.

Under 50? Over 70? 

Although women in their 40s and over 70 are outside the BreastScreen program's target-age range, they are still at risk of breast cancer and are eligible for free screening mammograms with BreastScreen Victoria every two years.

Under 40? 

Women under 40 have dense breast tissue which makes it difficult for screening mammograms to accurately detect breast cancer. As research has not provided evidence that mammograms reduce breast cancer deaths in this age group, women under 40 are not eligible to attend BreastScreen Victoria.

How often should I be screened? 

BreastScreen recommends a mammogram once every two years.

Is BreastScreen Victoria free? 

Yes.

Do I need a referral? 

No.

Will it hurt? 

Some women find that compressing the breast is uncomfortable, but this only lasts a few seconds while the mammogram is being taken. If you experience pain during the mammogram, please let the radiographer know. You may also ask for the procedure to stop at any time. If you are still having periods, you may find it more comfortable to make your appointment one or two weeks after your period, when your breasts are less tender.

Are screening mammograms safe? 

The level of radiation women receive during a screening mammogram is low - similar to that of many common x-rays.

Will a breast screen find all cancers? 

Breast screening is the most reliable way of detecting breast cancer, but like other medical tests, it is not perfect. Some cancers are not found on a screening mammogram.

What else can I do to be breast aware? 

Whether you have regular mammograms or not, it is important for all women to get to know their breasts and what is normal for them. If, at any time, you notice an unusual change in your breast, visit your doctor immediately.

How do I make an appointment? 

To arrange your free screening, phone 13 20 50.

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