With one of the highest rates of breast cancer in the world New
Zealand has introduced a mammographic breast-screening programme in
an effort to try to find cancer at an early stage when treatment is
thought to be more effective. Breast Screen Aotearoa is a
publically funded programme offerring free two yearly mammograms to
women aged 45 - 69 years. in addition, many New Zealand women have
mammographic screening through the private sector. There is
considerable variation in recommended screening intervals, advice
on what age to commence screening and information on the risks and
benefits of the procedure.
Facts about mammograms
A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast.
Mammograms do not reduce breast cancer risk. They can only find a
cancer once it has developed.
Screening mammograms may reduce the risk of dying from breast
cancer by 30% in a screened population if combined with optimal
treatment of all screen-detected cancers.
Mammograms can miss 10 - 15% of cancers. This miss rate may be
even higher in younger women who have dense breast tissue.
Some cancers will develop in the time between screening
mammograms. These are called interval cancers. In this situation
screening has not helped with early detection. Some women may be
lulled into a false sense of security because they have had a
normal mammogram recently. Any new breast lump should be thoroughly
investigated without delay.
Mammographic screening can result in unnecessary tests for changes
that are eventually shown to be non-cancer
Mammographic screening may result in over-diagnosis and excessive
treatment for very early cancer that may never have progressed to
cause any problems during the persons natural lifespan.
Screening mammograms are not recommended for average risk women
less than 40 years of age
Canadian Breast Screen
Information This is the clearest information I have seen
explaining risks and benefits to women.....have a look
For more information on the National breastscreening programme go
Breast Care Book
Comprehensive Information and
advice on all aspects
of breast care.
Meet the Surgeon
Trevor Smith MBChB FCS