Treatments and tests

Screening mammography for women under 40

The following information explains why women under 40 years are not eligible for free BreastScreen WA screening mammograms at this stage.

  • The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age and the majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer are over 50 years of age.
  • The breast tissue of younger women tends to be more dense than the tissue of older women. Dense tissue can show up as white areas on the X-ray. Breast cancers also show up as white areas on X-rays. This means that screening mammograms are frequently less accurate at finding breast cancer in younger women.
  • As yet, research has not provided enough evidence that screening mammography is effective in reducing breast cancer deaths for women under 40 years.
  • BreastScreen WA has a licence from the Radiological Council to only screen women who are 40 years or older.

What if I am experiencing a breast symptom?

BreastScreen WA is a screening mammography service designed specifically for women with no breast symptoms. Women of all ages should see their GP immediately if they notice any unusual changes in their breasts. Your GP will refer you for further investigation relevant to your symptoms.

What if I have a family history of breast cancer?

Your risk of developing breast cancer will depend on a number of factors including:

  • How many close relatives have been diagnosed with breast cancer (mother, sister, daughter, father, son, brother).
  • The age when breast cancer was found (your risk is greater if your relative was under 50 years of age).
  • When there is breast cancer in both breasts, male breast cancer, or breast and ovarian cancer in the family.

Is there anything I can do now?

We encourage you to discuss any issues you may have with your GP and remember to:

  • Be aware of the normal look and feel of your breasts.
  • Look in the mirror at your breasts and feel for any changes in your breasts.
  • See your GP promptly if you notice any new changes in your breasts.
  • Ask your GP to check your breasts regularly.

More information

Visit BreastScreen WA (external site) to download or order a range of publications, including languages other than English.

BreastScreen WA

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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