Should I have a breast screen?

Information to help you decide if breast screening is right for you.

Benefits of breast screening

Peace of mind

Most breast screens have a normal result (95%). This means that no breast cancer was found. Women have told us that knowing they have a normal result from a breast screen gives them peace of mind.

More treatment options and less invasive treatment

Breast screening aims to find breast cancers that are very small – too small to be seen or felt by you or your doctor. When cancers are small, they’re more easily treated. This means that women can have a better quality of life after their breast cancer diagnosis. The earlier breast cancer is found, the better the chance of surviving it.

Prevents deaths from breast cancer

Since the BreastScreen Australia program started, there has been a reduction in deaths from breast cancer.

Read more about how breast screening prevents deaths from breast cancer.

Possible risks of breast screening

Not all breast cancers are found

Breast screening is very good at finding breast cancers but there is a very small chance that a breast cancer won’t be found at a breast screen. A very small number of breast cancers are found in between women’s regular breast screens.

Being asked to come back for more tests can be worrying

A small number of women (5 out of 100) are asked to have follow up tests after a breast screen because there’s something on the x - rays that needs to be further investigated. Although this can be worrying, most women asked to have follow up tests (85 out of 100) won’t have cancer.

Finding and treating breast cancers that may not have become life threatening

It’s not possible to tell which breast cancers will becoming life threatening and which won’t. All women with a breast cancer diagnosis are offered treatment. This means that some women are treated for breast cancers that may not have caused them any harm.

Exposure to radiation

Breast screening takes x - rays of the breasts. This means that you're exposed to a small amount of radiation at every screen – the same as about 6 weeks of normal background radiation.

Background radiation is caused by natural radioactive minerals in the ground, soil, and water. Everyone is exposed to background radiation all the time. Research shows that the benefits of having regular breast screens outweigh the risks of radiation.

Last updated: October 2021