BreastScreen Australia provides free two-yearly breast cancer screening to women through dedicated screening and assessment services. Women have a screening mammogram performed at a screening unit (which may be fixed, relocatable or mobile).
Women whose images are suspicious for breast cancer will be recalled for further investigation by a multidisciplinary team at an assessment centre. Further investigation may include clinical examination, mammography, ultrasound and biopsy procedures. Most women who are recalled for assessment are found not to have breast cancer.
BreastScreen Australia actively invites women aged 50-74 to have free two-yearly breast cancer screening. Women aged 40-49 and 75 or over are also eligible to attend. Women aged 50-74 are targeted because the risk of breast cancer has been found to increase with age, and screening mammography is known to be effective in reducing breast cancer deaths in this age group.
Women under 40 years are not eligible to attend a screening mammogram at BreastScreen Australia. As yet, research has not provided enough evidence that population screening is effective in reducing breast cancer deaths for women under 40 years of age.
The breast tissue of younger women tends to be more dense than the tissue of older women. Dense tissue can show up as white areas on the X-ray. Breast cancers also show up as white areas on X-rays. This means that screening mammograms are frequently less accurate at finding breast cancer in younger women.
Women of all ages should see their GP immediately if they notice any unusual changes in their breasts.
Information on specific policies within BreastScreen Australia
- Position Statement on Breast Density and Screening
- Management of women with breast implants
- Policy and practice in relation to symptomatic women in BreastScreen Australia
- Policy on screening versus diagnostic mammography
- National Policy for BreastScreen Australia Eligibility
- Policy on screening women aged 40-49 years
- Statement on use of thermography to detect breast cancer
- Position Statement on the use of Tomosynthesis within BreastScreen Australia services
- Cancer Australia's Position Statement on overdiagnosis from mammographic screening
- Cancer Australia’s Position Statement on the use of fine needle aspiration (FNA) and core biopsy of the breast in the BreastScreen Australia program
Papers on emerging issues relevant to BreastScreen Australia
- Digital Breast Tomosynthesis - literature reviews on the use of digital breast tomosynthesis in breast cancer screening and assessment.
- Information for women with breast implants
- Horizon scan – new and emerging technologies relevant to breast cancer screening
- Breast density – a literature review on breast density and screening
- Understanding Informed Decision Making – a literature review about Australian women’s attitudes to participating in population-based breast screening
Appropriate Items for 3D Tomosynthesis
On 29 April, 2018 the Australian Government announced changes to breast imaging covered by Medicare following advice from the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Review Taskforce. The MBS changes are not related to breast screening services. As set out in the Commonwealth’s Fact Sheet, Appropriate Items for 3D Breast Tomosynthesis, from 1 November 2018, the Australian Government will include two new time-limited items on the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) for three dimensional breast tomosynthesis (3DBT), often called 3D mammography. The 3DBT items will be used for diagnostic testing of individuals where malignancy is suspected (often identified through a screening mammogram).
The new items are an interim measure (for two years) to enable an application for long-term funding to be lodged by the sector and considered by the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC).
Current Policy Activities
The Department of Health provides funding for a variety of breast screening research projects and activities. The below document outlines the Commonwealth funded research projects and activities currently being undertaken.
Accessing Medicare for biomarker testing in BreastScreen Australia.
In order to facilitate prompt treatment planning for women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer through BreastScreen Australia services, the document below clarifies the eligibility criteria to access Medicare Benefits Schedule rebates.
Facilitating prompt biomarker testing for women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer through BreastScreen Australia services (PDF 288 KB) Facilitating prompt biomarker testing for women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer through BreastScreen Australia services (Word 18 KB)