Information for General Practitioners

Information for General Practitioners

Breast Cancer is the most common cause of cancer death in West Australian women aged 40 – 64 years. BreastScreen WA is Western Australia's only accredited FREE screening mammography and assessment service.

The role of the GP

  • Research demonstrates your encouragement will increase the likelihood of women attending a screening mammogram. Although a doctor’s referral is not essential, General Practitioners are valued by BreastScreen WA as having a fundamental role in encouraging women to have a screening mammogram and in the management of screen detected breast lesions.
  • Women are asked to nominate a GP that their results can be sent to.

Who can have a screening mammogram?

  • BreastScreen WA specifically targets asymptomatic women aged 50-74 years as studies show if 70% of women in this age group participate in screening, a statistically significant 35% reduction in mortality from breast cancer can be achieved compared to women who are not screened.
  • Women aged 40-49 years can attend but there is less proven benefit for screening women in this age group.
  • Women aged 75 years and over are welcome to attend but are not re-invited. BreastScreen WA recommend women in this age group consult with their health care providers whether to continue screening mammography.
  • Screening mammography is for asymptomatic women. Women with any breast symptoms (eg. breast lumps, nipple discharge) should be thoroughly assessed and investigated elsewhere. Referral to a screening service is inappropriate and may cause unnecessary delay in diagnosis and anxiety for women. A negative mammogram does not alter the necessity for a full clinical assessment and investigation of a breast symptom.

How often should women have a screening mammogram?

  • Women will be re-invited every two years until age 75 years. If women over 75 years want to have a screening mammogram, they are welcome to phone 13 20 50 to make an appointment prior to their due date.
  • Women with a personal or significant family history of breast cancer will be invited annually.

What happens when a woman has an abnormal mammogram?

  • Further assessment is discussed with the woman by a Breast Assessment Nurse over the phone.
  • Women with an abnormality detected by screening will be invited for further investigation at a BreastScreen WA Breast Assessment Centre. Her GP is notified of this appointment in writing. Women may choose to be referred to her GP to be assessed privately at any time.
  • At the breast assessment clinic, women may have further diagnostic mammographic views, ultrasound, fine needle aspirations and core biopsy. Localisation techniques (eg ultrasound, stereotactic) may be required for tissue sampling as the majority of these lesions are radiologically detected and are usually not palpable. Women may choose to be referred to her GP to be assessed privately at any time.
  • BreastScreen WA provides assessment through two Breast Assessment Centres by a multi-disciplinary team, up to the point of a definitive diagnosis. If a breast cancer is diagnosed, women are referred back to her GP to be managed through the usual public or private health care services.
  • The Radiologist, Surgeon, Pathologist, Radiographer, Breast Physician and Breast Assessment Nurse work together in a multidisciplinary team to provide a diagnosis as quickly as possible, preferably as a same day service.
  • Counselling for a woman and/or her family is available.
  • Where no evidence of breast cancer is detected after further investigation, the results are discussed with the woman and she receives a written report. Result letters are sent to her GP.

Will GPs be informed of results?

  • Women are encouraged to involve their nominated GPs to discuss options for management and treatment of breast cancer.
  • If breast cancer is diagnosed, the woman’s GP is advised in writing or contacted by phone if possible by the Breast Assessment Centre’s Breast Physician on the day.  
  • BreastScreen WA may contact GPs about the results of investigations of women who elect to have their assessment in the private sector. This data is used to assist with quality assurance of the program’s cancer detection rates.

What happens if the woman returns to her GP for further tests?

  • Women may choose to be referred to her GP to be assessed privately at any time.
  • If the patient or the GP decide to organise “further tests” and clinical management privately outside the BreastScreen WA system, private radiology practices prefer that a BreastScreen WA mammogram report accompany any imaging requests. GPs can obtain a mammogram report by contacting one of the BreastScreen WA nurses on 9323 6710 or 9323 6726 (turnaround time is approximately 3 working days).

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Last Updated: 23/02/2018