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for some reason I feel the need to defend the honour of public health care systems. In Australia:
10. At what age does BreastScreen Australia encourage women to start having screening mammograms?
BreastScreen Australia is targeted specifically at women without symptoms aged 50-69 years where the evidence is that screening has the greatest potential to prevent mortality from breast cancer. Women aged 40-49 and 70 years and older, who have no breast cancer symptoms or signs, are also eligible for free screening mammograms.
11. Why does BreastScreen Australia promote re-screening every two years for women aged 50-69 years?
Two-yearly screening mammograms are the best way for women aged 50-69 years to detect breast cancer early, before there are any signs or symptoms. Early detection in this age group offers women a better chance of successful treatment and recovery.
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12. What is the national BreastScreen Australia policy on screening women younger than 50?
Women 40-49 years
Age is the biggest risk factor in developing breast cancer. Around 75% of all breast cancers occur in women over the age of 50. Current research shows that breast cancer screening is most effective in detecting early breast cancer in women aged 50-69 years.
Current evidence indicates that the benefits of breast cancer screening for women aged 40-49 years are not strong enough to encourage all women in this age group to have regular breast cancer screening.
Women in their 40s who have no breast problems are able to have a free screening mammogram through BreastScreen Australia if they wish. However, they are not specifically targeted to attend.
BreastScreen Australia will continue to review this policy as new research becomes available.
Women 40 years and under
Regular screening mammograms are not recommended for women under 40 years. One reason is that the risk of breast cancer in young women is low compared to that of older women. Also, mammographic screening is not as effective in younger women. As women grow older and approach menopause, their breasts change and become less dense or solid. The tissue of younger women’s breasts is usually more dense than that of older women and can show up as white areas on the x-ray. Breast cancers also show up as white areas on x-rays. This makes breast cancer more difficult to detect in young women. Women under 40 years of age are therefore more likely to have an unnecessary recall for assessment, with all the anxiety associated with this, and sometimes invasive investigations, when there was no cancer there in the first place.
Younger women who notice any unusual breast lumps, pain or nipple discharge should see their doctor immediately. Those who are concerned about their individual risk of developing breast cancer should also seek advice from their doctor.
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