Questions and answers
What should I do if I’m under 40?
What if I’m in my 40s and 75 years or over?
What if I have a family history of breast cancer?
What are the potential benefits and harms of screening?
What should I do between my two-yearly breast screens?
What if I have breast implants?
What if I'm breastfeeding?
What if I am or think I may be pregnant?
What if I've noticed a breast sign or symptom?
What are the possible signs or symptoms of breast cancer?
What is the difference between a screening mammogram (breast screen) and a diagnostic mammogram?
Does BreastScreen Queensland offer breast screening for men?
How secure is my personal information?
Have you been contacted by someone saying they are from BreastScreen Queensland about a donation or your bank details?
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Women under 40 are not eligible to attend BreastScreen Queensland, but you can maintain good breast health. Firstly, it is important that you become breast aware. Start by becoming familiar with the normal look and feel of your breasts and report any changes to your doctor without delay. Changes to look out for include:
- a new lump or lumpiness in your breasts, especially if it is in only one breast
- a change in the size and shape of your breast
- a change to the nipple such as crusting, an ulcer, redness or the nipple pulled in
- a discharge from your nipple that happens without squeezing the nipple
- a change in the skin of your breast such as redness or dimpling or puckered skin
- a pain that does not go away.
You can also do things to help reduce your risk by making healthy lifestyle choices, such as limiting your alcohol intake and exercising regularly. For more information about breast awareness and risk factors for young women visit the Cancer Australia website.
You can have a breast screen with BreastScreen Queensland if you choose, however you won’t be actively encouraged by the program as the evidence of benefit is less clear in these age groups. It is recommended that you talk to your doctor about whether breast screening is right for you.
Having a family history of breast cancer is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer and this risk depends on how many relatives have had breast cancer, their age when the breast cancer was diagnosed, and how closely you are related to them. If you are concerned about your family history of breast cancer, you should discuss this with your doctor.
Like all medical procedures, there are benefits and potential harms of breast screening. Weighing up the potential benefits and harms will help you decide whether a breast screen is right for you and whether or not you have a breast screen.
What are the potential benefits?
- Regular breast screens can save lives. Having a breast screen every two years reduces the overall number of women who die each year from breast cancer.
- More effective and less invasive treatment. If breast cancer is detected early, there are increased treatment and management options. This is because breast cancer can be treated more effectively when it is still small and has not spread outside the breast to other parts of the body.
- Reassurance. The majority of women will be reassured that their breast screen results showed 'no evidence of breast cancer'.
What are the potential harms?
- Finding and treating breast cancers that may not have become life-threatening. At this time, it is not possible to tell exactly which breast cancers may become life-threatening and which may not.
- Further tests done but breast cancer is not found. Some women who have a breast screen will be called back to the service for more tests. Most women who have further tests will be found to not have breast cancer but some women may find the process distressing.
- Breast cancer is present but not found. A small number of breast cancers may not be visible on the mammogram at the time of screening. While a mammogram is the best way of finding breast cancers early, they are not 100% accurate.
For more information about screening for breast cancer and the potential benefits and harms, click on BreastScreen and You
Breast cancer can develop in between your two-yearly breast screens. It is important to be aware of the normal look and feel of your breasts. If you notice any changes, contact your doctor without delay, even if your breast screen was normal. Changes to look out for include:
- A new lump or lumpiness, in your breasts, especially if it is in only one breast
- A change in the size or shape of your breast
- A change to the nipple, such as crusting, ulcer, redness or the nipple pulled in
- A discharge from your nipple that happens without squeezing the nipple
- A change in the skin of your breast such as redness or dimpling or puckered skin
- A pain that doesn’t go away.
Breast screens are generally safe for women with implants. The person taking the breast screen will use specialised techniques to see the breast tissue surrounding your implant. However, breast implants will obscure some of the breast tissue in the image and for this reason will make it more difficult for the specialist doctors who read the images to detect any breast cancers that may be present. There is also an extremely small chance that the pressure placed on your breast by the screening machine may cause implants to rupture. Before having a breast screen, you will be asked to sign an additional consent form that acknowledges understanding of these risks.
Women who are breastfeeding are eligible to participate in the BreastScreen Queensland Program, however you should consider the following before scheduling a breast screen:
- breast screening on lactating breasts is less effective because the breasts are much denser with stored milk. On a breast screen, dense breast tissue shows up as a solid white area, making small cancers (which also show up white) almost impossible to see
- breasts tend to be more sensitive during lactation and the process of mammography may be more painful.
If you are lactating and decide to participate in breast screening, you will be asked to bring your baby with you and to feed your baby or express milk just prior to your breast screen so that the breast will contain the smallest amount of milk possible.
If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant you are not eligible to have a breast screen due to the potential risk of harm to the fetus. If you have a breast screen appointment or have any questions, please call 13 20 50 to discuss this with the BreastScreen Queensland staff.
If you have been asked to come back for further tests following your breast screen and you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant, please let BreastScreen Queensland staff know. Some tests may not be recommended for women who are pregnant or think they may be pregnant, due to the potential risk of harm to the fetus. Our staff will discuss your options with you before proceeding with any tests.
If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant and are experiencing any breast changes or possible signs or symptoms of breast cancer you should contact your doctor without delay.
The BreastScreen Queensland Program is directed at asymptomatic women, that is, women without signs or symptoms of breast cancer, as breast screens can detect breast cancer before you notice changes.
If you notice a breast change or possible sign or symptom, please see your doctor without delay, even if your breast screen was normal, do not wait until your next breast screen.
Women who report a breast sign or symptom at the time of booking an appointment or upon presenting to a BreastScreen Queensland Service will be transferred to a BreastScreen Queensland nurse or doctor to determine whether an appointment with their doctor is more appropriate.
Possible signs or symptoms of breast cancer may include:
- a new lump or lumpiness, especially if it’s only in one breast
- a change in the shape or size of your breast
- a change to the nipple such as crusting, ulcer, redness or the nipple pulled in
- a discharge from your nipple that happens without squeezing the nipple
- a change in the skin of your breast such as redness, dimpling or puckered skin
- a pain that does not go away.
If you’re are experiencing any of these signs or symptoms or any other breast changes, please contact your doctor without delay, even if your breast screen was normal.
Mammogram is another word for breast screen or the process used to take an x-ray image of the breast.
A screening mammogram (breast screen) is for women who do not have any signs or symptoms of breast cancer. It aims to detect breast cancers before they can be seen or felt by a woman or her doctor. Breast screens are usually done every two years. BreastScreen Queensland provides free breast screening to eligible women and a doctor’s referral is not needed.
A diagnostic mammogram is for women who have signs or symptoms of breast cancer. These might have been detected by the woman or by her doctor. In order to have a diagnostic mammogram, a woman will require a referral from her doctor. BreastScreen Queensland does not offer diagnostic mammograms.
The BreastScreen Queensland Program provides breast screening to all clients who were born, present or identify as female. For men, the harms of breast screening are currently assessed as outweighing the benefits. As a result, men are not targeted in the BreastScreen Queensland program and are instead encouraged to report any changes or concerns they have about their breasts to their doctor. For information about breast cancer in men is available at www.breastcancerinmen.canceraustralia.gov.au/
Personal information is collected by BreastScreen Queensland when you make an appointment or when you attend a screening or assessment service.
Your personal information which has been collected by BreastScreen Queensland as part of Queensland Health is handled in accordance with the Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld) (IP Act) which include the nine National Privacy Principles.
All personal information is maintained by BreastScreen Queensland on a secure, central database known as the BreastScreen Queensland Register.This information is then used to provide you with breast screening services.
Your information is used by BreastScreen Queensland staff to contact you, to provide your results, or to follow up on any additional tests that may be needed. It will be used to remind you when you are next due for screening, as well as to plan, monitor and evaluate the quality and outcomes of the BreastScreen Queensland program. As part of this quality evaluation we may occasionally contact you to invite you to complete a client satisfaction survey, or to ask for your feedback about our service.
Statistical information that does not identify individuals may also be used for the purpose of breast cancer research which may be published.
Access to your personal and health information for any other purpose will only be provided with your prior knowledge and consent or as otherwise authorised under Part 7 of the Hospital and Health Boards Act 2011 (Qld) or the Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld).
For more information about how Queensland Health protects your personal information, or to learn about your right to access your own personal information, please see our website at www.health.qld.gov.au/global/privacy.
BreastScreen Queensland will never contact you to ask for donations or request your bank details. Further, BreastScreen Queensland does not share your personal details with telemarketers.
Please be aware of scam phone calls, emails, or other correspondence that may impersonate organisations such as BreastScreen Queensland to obtain your bank details.
We ask that you DO NOT share your bank details or transfer money to anyone who contacts you saying they are from BreastScreen Queensland. Please report any such matters to the police.
Last reviewed 1 September 2020 Last updated 1 September 2020