Breast Cancer Screening

Screening is having a test that can detect early cancers before you can feel them.

For breast cancer, this is most commonly done with a mammogram (a breast x-ray) with or without a tomogram (a breast x-ray which takes multiple digital images).

Breast ultrasound may be used in younger women with very dense breasts but should not be a substitute for a mammogram.

Australian women with average population risk should start screening from age 50 with a mammogram every 2 years.

Screening earlier (or more frequently) depends on classification of risk according to family history and should be discussed with your GP or breast surgeon.

Screening should continue until age 74 (as per Breastscreen advice) or beyond this if woman is in good health otherwise.

The lifetime risk of breast cancer is between 1 in 8 and 1 in 11.

The risk increases if other family members have had breast or ovarian cancer particularly if you carry certain genes. Most breast cancer, however, is not genetic.

Certain factors are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.

For more information or to book your screening mammogram, please follow this link:

https://www.breastscreen.org.au/

Below is a list of factors that increase the risk of breast cancer and others that are protective against breast cancer. You may have none of these risk factors and yet get breast cancer. You may also have all of these risk factors but do not get breast cancer. You should, however, avoid whatever you can avoid from the risks such as prolonged use of hormone replacement therapy.

Factors that increase the risk of breast cancerProtective factors
Increasing age
Female sex
Younger age
Male sex
Carrying certain genes (eg. BRCA1 & BRCA2)
Family history of breast cancer
Personal history of breast cancer (having had breast cancer in the past)
No family history
Early menarche (<12)
Late menopause (>55)
Having no children or having children after age 30
Late menarche (>14)
Early menopause (<45)
Giving birth before age 30
Having more children (>5)
Breastfeeding (>16 months)
Using the oral contraceptive pill (risk goes back to normal 2 years after stopping this)
Using hormone replacement therapy (HRT) – especially >5yrs
No exogenous hormones
No use of the contraceptive pill or implanted devices
No use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
Increased breast density on mammogramRecreational exercise
Increased bone density (which reflects greater exposure to estrogen)Healthy body mass index (BMI) after menopause (<23)
Previous breast biopsiesAspirin – more than 1/wk for >6 months
History of high-risk breast lesions (eg. ADH)
Regular alcohol (2-5 drinks/day)