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.
Screening mammography is less accurate in women under 40. Breast tissue in younger women is denser than in older women. As dense breast tissue and cancer both appear opaque on an x-ray, detecting cancer using mammogram in younger women is less likely to be accurate.
Given its reduced effectiveness in women under 40, the cost of mammogram in this age group (eg undergoing unnecessary procedures, discomfort during screening, exposure to low-dose radiation) is currently thought to outweigh the benefits.
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
- 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
Papers on emerging issues relevant to BreastScreen Australia
- Digital Breast Tomosynthesis - A paper on the evidence and issues for its use in screening for breast cancer.
- Information for women with breast implants
Current Policy Activities
The Department of Health has funded literature reviews to ensure that robust evidence underpins two BreastScreen Australia position statements: the Position Statement on Breast Density and Screening, and the Position Statement on the use of Tomosynthesis within BreastScreen Australia services.
Links to both position statements are above.The Department of Health welcomes input from consumers on the evidence that underpins the BreastScreen Australia Position Statement on Breast Density. A time limited survey will be available from this page in April 2018.