Screening

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 to:  Breastscreen Aotearoa

 
Breast Care Book

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Meet the Surgeon

Trevor Smith MBChB FCS

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