Who is eligible for free screening
BreastScreen SA’s policy on screening for women in different age groups is as follows, regardless of whether you:
- are living with a disability
- are taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
- have breast implants, pacemakers or other medical devices
Women aged 50 to 69
Screening is primarily recommended for women aged 50 to 69.
If you are in this age group, it is estimated that by having a screening mammogram every two years, you reduce your chance of dying from breast cancer by around 40%.
BreastScreen SA invites most women from age 50 via a letter. You will then be reinvited for a breast screen every two years until the age of 69.
Women aged 40 to 49
The benefit of breast screening has not been clearly established for women in this age group. However, if you are aged 40 to 49 you are eligible for free breast screening.
If you choose to begin screening in your forties, you will be reinvited for a breast screen every two years.
Women aged 70 and older
As research is less clear about the benefits of breast screening for women aged over 70, we will no longer send you two-yearly reminders if you are in this age group.
However, as the risk of getting breast cancer continues to increase with age and does not stop at 70, you are welcome to continue having regular breast screens.
Women with a strong family history of breast cancer
Women from the age of 40 with a strong family history of breast cancer are eligible for a free breast screen every year at BreastScreen SA.
A woman is said to have a strong family history if she has one of the following:
- a first-degree relative (mother/sister/daughter, father/brother/son) with breast cancer diagnosed before the age of 50
- a first-degree relative with cancer in both breasts (diagnosed at any age)
- two or more first-degree relatives with breast cancer (diagnosed at any age)
We recommend that you discuss your individual circumstances with your GP.
People not eligible for screening
Women aged under 40
If you are younger than 40, you are not eligible for a free breast screen. There is no evidence that having routine breast screens in this age group reduces the number of deaths from breast cancer.
While breast cancer can occur at any age, it is much less frequent in women under 40. Also, the breast tissue of younger women can be dense, making breast screen images difficult to read, and very small changes may not be readily detected.
If you have had breast cancer in past
BreastScreen SA is not the best place for women to have mammograms if they have had breast cancer within the past 10 years. It is very important that you have regular check-ups because you are at increased risk of developing breast cancer again. These regular check-ups should involve a thorough breast examination and general check by a doctor, annual mammograms and other tests as recommended.
These procedures are not available as part of the screening mammogram appointment at BreastScreen SA.
Women are eligible to attend the screening program at the discretion of their treating specialist or GP.
Breastfeeding and pregnancy
Women who are breastfeeding are not eligible for screening until at least three months after they have stopped breastfeeding.
If you are pregnant you will not be screened. Please inform the radiographer before having a breast screen.
Men and breast cancer
Men can develop breast cancer, however the incidence is very low.
In South Australia in 2008:
- there were 12 new cases of breast cancer in males, compared to 1121 new cases in females
- there was one death from breast cancer in males, but 234 deaths from breast cancer in females
If a man of any age becomes aware of a symptom, such as a lump or nipple discharge, or any other change in his breasts, he should contact his doctor as soon as possible to arrange further investigation.
For more information on breast cancer in men, see Cancer Australia.
Regular screening mammogram's are recommended for women taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Women with concerns regarding HRT should discuss them with their doctor.
BreastScreen SA provides free screening mammograms at two-yearly intervals, primarily for women aged 50 to 69 without breast symptoms, regardless of whether or not they have breast implants.
However, those women who have a breast implant following surgery for breast cancer are advised to attend their breast specialist for ongoing care, including annual mammogram's. Further information for these women is provided in our brochure “Have you had breast cancer in the past?”.
Women with pacemakers or defibrillators can usually still have a screening mammogram. These devices are strong and not easily damaged. Nevertheless, we take extra care and may need to use special techniques to obtain high quality X-rays.