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Frequently Asked Questions About Mammogram

1. Who is eligible to have a mammogram at BreastScreen NSW – Sydney West?

Women aged 50 to 74 years are especially encouraged to attend BreastScreen NSW Sydney West for a mammogram. Overseas studies have shown that regular mammograms in women 50 to 69 years can reduce the death rate from breast cancer by at least 30%. Appointments are also available for women aged 40 to 49 or 74 years of age or older.

2. How much does a mammogram cost?

Absolutely nothing. BreastScreen mammograms are FREE.

3. How often should I have a BreastScreen mammogram?

BreastScreen mammograms are recommended every two years. If you have a family history you may be eligible for a yearly mammogram.

4. What happens when I visit BreastScreen NSW – Sydney West?

You will be greeted by a receptionist who will give you relevant forms to complete and return (if you did not already receive them in the mail). You will be taken into the mammography room by a female radiographer who will do the test. The radiographer will carefully position you and quickly take the x-rays. Generally two pictures will be taken of each breast. For women with larger breasts, some extra pictures may be required. Each x-ray only takes a few seconds.

5. Who reads and reports the x-rays?

Two specially trained doctors (radiologists) will independently examine the x-rays. Sometimes a third opinion is required.

6. What happens to the results of my mammogram?

The results will be mailed to you and, with your consent,  to your family doctor.

7. Why is the BreastScreen program only for women over 40 years?

There is no evidence that women under 40 years benefit from having a screening mammogram. This is because breast tissue in you women is much denser, and it is difficult to read the mammogram. These women should have a yearly physical examination by their family doctor.

Most women who develop breast cancer are aged 50 years or over. The average age of a person diagnosed with breast cancer is 59. It can also occur in men, but is rare.

8. Can women under 40 get breast cancer as well?

Although breast cancer is uncommon in younger women, it can occur at any age. Kylie Minogue developed breast cancer at age 31. If you have a lump and are worried, see your doctor. Women under 40 years should be breast aware and get to know the normal look and feel of their breasts and see their doctor immediately if they notice any unusual changes in the breast such as a lump, skin dimpling, bloody or clear nipple discharge.

9. Can I have a mammogram at BreastScreen if I have breast implants?

Most women who have breast implants will be able to have regular mammograms. Women should discuss whether a mammogram is suitable for them with their doctor. It is highly unlikely that having a mammogram will damage the implants. If a woman has any problems with her implants, she should see her doctor before coming to BreastScreen.

It is important that BreastScreen knows if a woman has implants. Special x-ray techniques will be used and extra x-rays will be taken, so it is necessary to allow for additional time when making an appointment. There is no evidence that women with breast implants are more likely to develop breast cancer.

10. Will a mammogram hurt?

Some women find the compression when having a mammogram uncomfortable, but it is necessary. The compression only lasts a few seconds on each breast and helps to produce a clear breast x-ray. If compression is not used, the x-ray appears blurred and the radiologist may find it harder to detect any abnormality.

11. When is the best time to have a mammogram?

Early detection of breast cancer is difficult. Some women find their breasts are more tender at certain times and should choose a time to have a mammogram when they are feeling relaxed and well. All mammograms are performed by fully trained female radiographers.

12. Is a mammogram harmful?

The amount of radiation from a mammogram is tiny. Overseas studies have calculated the risk from radiation to be equivalent to the harm of smoking one cigarette, 400 miles of air travel or 60 miles of car travel. Very rarely, a mammogram may cause some bruising.

All radiographers that perform mammograms have obtained a Certificate in Clinical Proficiency in Mammography as per National Accreditation Standards and have regular training and image quality reviews to keep up the required high standards of mammography.

13. I am pregnant, can I have a mammogram?

The breast tissue changes with monthly periods, age, breast feeding and pregnancy. Breasts may feel lumpy and tender during these changes but this can be quite normal. During pregnancy a woman’s breast tissue is much denser, similarly when breast feeding.

We do not recommend any exposure to radiation if a woman is pregnant. If a woman is breast feeding it is recommended that she should wait at least six months after finishing breast feeding before having a mammogram. If a woman is concerned about a particular breast problem she needs to discuss this further with her doctor.

14. What happens if I am called back for further tests?

Mammograms can detect changes in the breast before a woman or her doctor can see or feel them, in fact, when they are smaller than a grain of rice. If a change is discovered in a mammogram, further investigation is necessary and the woman is called back to attend an Assessment Clinic.

This does not mean that a woman will have breast cancer. Most women who are recalled do not have breast cancer. Out of every 200 women screened, 10 will be called back and about one will be diagnosed with breast cancer.

The Assessment Clinic enables a specialist team of doctors to have a closer check up of an area in a woman’s breast. The staff at BreastScreen NSW – Sydney West endeavour to minimise a woman’s anxiety by keeping the process of being recalled and having an assessment as short as possible. This service is also free of charge.

15. Do I need a doctor’s referral to have a mammogram at BreastScreen?

No. A woman does not need a doctor’s referral or Medicare card to have a screening mammogram at BreastScreen. The breast screening service is provided free of charge to all women aged 40 and over. Simply phone 13 20 50 for an appointment at the nearest site.

16. What should women with a family history of breast cancer do?

BreastScreen NSW recommends that women with a strong family history of breast cancer discuss their circumstances with their doctor. Having a yearly mammogram is particularly important if you have a “1st degree” family history which is defined as your mother, sister or daughter, particularly if they were diagnosed before the age of 50.