Early detection of breast cancer saves lives. Detecting any abnormalities early on ensures that women have all treatment options available to them. The earlier breast cancer is found, the better the chance of surviving it.
In Australia, free routine mammographic screening is available through BreastScreen Australia services in each state for women aged 50 to 74 years old. Women 40 to 49 years old can also have mammography, but breast screening is less effective because the density (thickness) of breast tissue makes it more difficult to see a cancer in the x-ray and fewer women are diagnosed in this age group.
This service is not offered to women under the age of 40 because research suggests that younger women do not benefit from routine mammographic screening because they have denser breast tissue than older women. It is also not offered to men due to their lack of breast tissue.
All women are encouraged to be 'breast aware' – that is, familiar with the normal look and feel of their breasts. If a woman does find a suspicious breast change, her GP will refer her to imaging tests to confirm the presence of the change. If the imaging results appear suspicious, she will be referred for a biopsy for confirmation and diagnosis.