What is a breast screen?

Breast screening uses screening mammography to look for cancer in the breasts of healthy women who currently have no breast symptoms. A screening mammogram is breast X-ray that uses a very small amount of radiation to detect breast cancer, including those too small to be felt.

A breast screen appointment can take as little as 10 minutes, and can be made by calling BreastScreen SA on 13 20 50.

The screening mammogram procedure involves the brief pressing of the breast (no more than 10 to 15 seconds) in a special X-ray machine to take an image of the breast tissue. This compression feels different for every woman, but is necessary for ensuring the images show all of the breast tissue clearly (including any very small cancers).

Why we need to compress your breast during a breast screen

an example of a breast screen with an uncompressed breast Breast screen - example of a screen with a compressed breast
Without compression With compression

A specially trained female radiographer will take two X-rays of each breast – a top-to-bottom image, and a side-to-side image. Women with larger breasts may require extra images to ensure all of the breast tissue can be seen.

The images are then sent to BreastScreen SA’s central State Coordination Unit to be examined by at least two specialist radiologists. If they report different results, the images will be examined by a third radiologist.

Most women who attend BreastScreen SA will receive their results via a letter within two weeks stating that no signs of breast cancer were found. They will then be invited for their next breast screen in two years, as breast cancer can develop between screens.

Women who screen with BreastScreen SA every two years have up to 41% less chance of dying from breast cancer than those who don’t, due to the subtle changes that can be seen on screening mammograms.

Further tests (the BreastScreen SA Assessment Clinic)

Around 5% of all women screened at BreastScreen SA will have an ‘area of concern’ or screen-detected abnormality identified on their screening mammogram that will need further investigation. These women are invited to attend BreastScreen SA’s free Assessment Clinic for more tests, including more detailed imaging, an ultrasound and a clinical breast examination.

The Assessment Clinic is run by a specialist multi-disciplinary team made up of breast surgeons, radiologists, radiographers, medical officers and nurse counsellors, ensuring women receive the very best possible care.

For every five women who come to the Assessment Clinic for further tests, less than one will receive a diagnosis of breast cancer.


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