About screening mammograms

About screening mammograms

One in eight women in Australia will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. The best time to treat breast cancer is when it is still very small. Having regular mammograms through BreastScreen WA is one of the best things you can do to detect breast cancer early, and improve your chance of survival.

What is a screening mammogram?

BreastScreen WA provides over 120,000 screening mammograms each year to Western Australian women. A screening mammogram is a low dose X-ray of a woman’s breast. Screening mammograms are performed on women with no breast symptoms, for the purpose of detecting breast cancer at an early stage before it can be felt or noticed.

Why are screening mammograms important?

Screening mammograms are performed on women 40 years or over with no breast symptoms every two years, for the purpose of detecting breast cancer at an early stage before it can be felt or noticed.

Did you know?

  • Women in Australia have a 1 in 8 risk of developing breast cancer in their lifetime
  • The risk of breast cancer increases with age
  • A mammogram can detect up to 90% of breast cancers and is the only proven means of detecting breast cancer at this early stage
  • Screening mammograms may detect a very small cancer, as small as a grain of rice, before you or your doctor can feel it
  • Breast cancer cannot be prevented, but the earlier a breast cancer is detected the better the chance of successful treatment

Who can have a screening mammogram?

BreastScreen WA provides FREE screening mammograms to Western Australian women 40 years or over with no breast symptoms every two years.

Women aged 50 to 74 years are encouraged to attend by way of personalised letters since the benefit from screening mammography is greatest for women in this age group.

Over 75% of breast cancers occur in women over 50 years of age.

What if I am a woman under 40 years?

Women under 40 years are not eligible to attend a screening mammogram at BreastScreen WA. Young women under 40 years have much denser breast tissue than older women, so it is more difficult for screening mammograms to show the changes that may indicate cancer. More information for women under 40.

What if I am a woman over 75 years?

Women 75 years and over are no longer sent reminder letters to attend for a mammogram. However, you are welcome to book online or ring 13 20 50  for an appointment prior to your due date. More information for women over 75.

What if I am a woman with:

  • A family history of breast cancer?
  • Breast implants?
  • A disability?
  • A breast symptom
  • A previous history of breast cancer? Women over the age of 40 who have a past history of breast cancer may attend the program. Women will be invited annually once they are enrolled in the program.

Should I have a screening mammogram?

Breast cancer cannot be prevented, but the earlier a breast cancer is detected the better the chance of successful treatment.

A mammogram may detect a very small cancer before you or your doctor can feel it.

BreastScreen WA provides over 120,000 screening mammograms each year to Western Australian women. For every 1,000 women screened, 950 will have no abnormality and will receive a letter within approximately ten working days to confirm their mammogram was normal. Approximately 50 women will be called back for further tests and up to 6 of these women may have a breast cancer detected.

Results pyramid

How often should I have a mammogram?

Every two years. Remember, once is not enough.

Regular screening mammograms every two years assists in detecting any unusual changes in your breasts at an early stage.

There are some cancers that cannot be detected by screening mammograms. See your GP / family doctor promptly if you notice any unusual changes in your breasts such as lumps, nipple discharge or persistent new breast pain, even if your last screening mammogram was normal.

How is a screening mammogram performed?

A specially trained female radiographer will take your mammogram.

Usually two X-rays are taken of each breast, one from the side and one from the top. The whole appointment takes about 20 minutes.

Your films will be read by two medical specialists (radiologists).

BreastScreen WA retains your mammograms for at least seven years for future comparison.

How reliable is breast screening?

Screening mammograms may detect up to 90% of breast cancers.

For all women, there is a chance that mammography will either:

  • miss a change due to breast cancer (false negative)
  • further tests will be performed to examine a change that is not due to breast cancer (false positive)

Not all breast cancers found on your mammogram can be cured.

BreastScreen Australia BreastScreen and You

Is a mammogram painful?

To obtain a clear picture and to minimise the radiation dose, the breast is positioned and compressed between two flat plates. This may be uncomfortable, but lasts only a few seconds.

breast in mammogram machine

compression x-rays

Compression improves mammograms because:

  • Compression holds the breast firmly which reduces movement and blurring
  • Compression spreads the breast tissue so that small changes are less likely to be hidden
  • Compression flattens the breast to an even thickness so that only a low dose of radiation is needed to see through the breast tissue

Is a mammogram harmful?

The risk of getting cancer from a screening mammogram is considered very low. The benefit of early diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer far outweighs the risk of the small amount of radiation received during a screening mammogram. More information on radiation.

Your decision

Some women may feel embarrassed about having a mammogram. BreastScreen WA respects each woman’s privacy and dignity. The choice to have a screening mammogram is yours. In making this decision you may wish to discuss your individual circumstances with your doctor.

Book online or phone 13 20 50

When making your appointment, please let us know if you

  1. have breast implants
  2. require an interpreter
  3. use a wheelchair.

These things may make your appointment a little longer.

If you need an interpreter, please call the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) first on 13 14 50 and ask to be connected to the BreastScreen WA call centre on 13 20 50.

NOTE:

Wheelchair access is available at all BreastScreen WA services.

Appointments are available 7:30am-5:45pm on weekdays and 8:15-11:30am on Saturdays at most BreastScreen WA clinics.

BreastScreen WA has metropolitan, regional and mobile screening services located at:

Bunbury South West Health Campus
Corner of Bussell Highway and Robertson Drive

Cannington      Unit 15, Prime West Cannington,
                         1490 Albany Highway, Beckenham, 6107

Cockburn Cockburn Integrated Health and Community Facility,
                        Suite 4, Corner Beeliar Drive and Wentworth Parade, Success, 6164

David Jones Rose Clinic
Level 3, Perth City store, 6000  

Mandurah Level 1, 3/61 Sutton Street, Mandurah 6210

Midland 14/27 Old Great Northern Highway, Midland, 6056

Mirrabooka      29 Yirrigan Drive, Mirrabooka, 6061

Padbury           Hepburn Heights Shopping Centre,
 Unit 8/6 Blackwattle Parade, Padbury, 6025

Perth City        50 Murray Street, Perth, 6000

Rockingham    Unit 2, 12 Leghorn Street, Rockingham, 6168

Wanneroo       ECU Health Centre, L2
30 Dundebar Road, Wanneroo, 6065

Appointments are available 7:30am-5:45pm on weekdays and 8:15am-11:30am on Saturdays at most BreastScreen WA clinics.

Mobile breast screening services visit outer metropolitan areas and country towns every two years. Some towns are visited annually.

  • Please bring your Medicare card with you to your appointment.
  • Women whose breasts become tender before their periods find it more comfortable to have a mammogram during or just after a period.
  • If you’ve had a previous mammogram elsewhere, please bring these images with you.
  • Please don’t wear talcum powder or deodorant on the day of your appointment. It may show on the X-ray picture.
  • Please be aware you will be reading information and signing a consent form at the appointment.

Get to know your breasts and what is normal for you. Look in the mirror at your breasts and feel your breasts from time to time.

If you notice any unusual changes in your breasts such as lumps, nipple discharge, or persistent new breast pain, even if your last screening mammogram was normal, please see your GP promptly.

Ask your GP to check your breasts regularly.

Contact your GP or phone:

BreastScreen WA

13 20 50 for appointments

(08) 9323 6700 for information or

1800 800 033 toll-free for country women

National Relay Service

Last Updated: 03/04/2017