When should GPs recommend screening?
Who is eligible for screening?
BreastScreen Victoria provides free two-yearly screening mammograms to women and trans and gender diverse (TGD) people who are:
- age 50-74
- Patients aged 40-49 or 75+ are eligible for screening but should discuss their individual risk factors with their doctor first
Patients aged 40-49 or 75+ are eligible for BreastScreen Victoria’s program, but due to very high demand for the service at the moment, there is a waiting list for an appointment for anyone in these age groups EXCEPT:
- patients who have screened with BreastScreen Victoria previously and recommended to screen annually; and/or
- those from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders
We are committed to ensuring our services are inclusive and accessible to all eligible Victorians. This means understanding and addressing the barriers that can stop certain communities from accessing breast screening.
We run targeted programs to increase breast screening in: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women; culturally and linguistically diverse women; LGBTI people; trans and gender diverse people; women with disability; women from low socio-economic areas; and women from remote and rural areas.
What age is screening recommended?
Age is the biggest risk factor in developing breast cancer. Around 75% of all breast cancers occur in women aged 50 years and over.
Women aged 50-74 will receive regular invitations from BSV to attend breast screening because the evidence of benefit is strongest in this age group. We urge you to recommend women aged 50–74 screen every 2 years.
People in their 40s and women over 75 are encouraged to discuss the risks and benefits of screening with their doctor.
People with symptoms of breast cancer should be referred for diagnostic breast imaging.
BreastScreen Victoria also provides free screens to TGD people, who as an underscreened population have a unique set of factors that may affect their risk.
Based off current evidence, if you have a TGD patient, we urge you to recommend two-yearly screening if they are over the age of 50 and meet the eligibility criteria – in line with screening recommendations for cis women. You can read more about screening for trans and gender diverse people on our TGD people page.
What happens next?
Screening results take approximately 2-4 weeks. Clients can choose to access their results electronically. A copy of the screening results will be sent electronically to their nominated GP. All screening results are the combined opinion of at least two clinicians.
Some clients are asked back for further tests. If a cancer is detected, they will be referred to their GP or a specialist breast clinic to discuss treatment options.
A GP referral is not required for the BreastScreen Victoria program but you can order a recommendation pad to help you remind women to screen. Appointments can be made with us on this website or by calling 13 20 50.
What if my patient has ...
If your patient diagnosed with breast cancer or DCIS more than five years ago they are able to have annual screening mammograms with BreastScreen Victoria with the approval of their treating doctor.
These clients are not automatically re-invited to join the program; they must re-enrol.
Only clients with mammographic abnormalities will be recalled for further tests. All other clients will be advised to see their GP for clinical examination.
Lobular carcinoma in situ, atypical ductal hyperplasia and atypical lobular hyperplasia of the breast
After a diagnosis of some benign (non-cancerous) breast conditions, the risk of developing breast cancer increases. These risks include:
- Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)
- Atypical ductal hyperplasia (ADH)
- Atypical lobular hyperplasia (ALH)
Clients with these conditions will be invited for annual screening up to the age of 74. They will only be recalled for further tests if any abnormalities are found on their mammogram. Once diagnosed with these conditions, it is strongly encouraged that clients discuss on-going management with their doctor, including an annual physical examination.
If your patient has symptoms of breast cancer (eg. breast lumps, nipple discharge) they should be referred to a diagnostic service for quicker and targeted results.
Referral to a screenings service is inappropriate and may cause unnecessary delay in diagnosis and anxiety. A negative mammogram does not alter the necessity for a full clinical assessment and investigation of a breast symptom.
For information on the management of your symptomatic patients refer to Cancer Australia Guidelines.
If your patient has implants they can still have a breast screen every two years. BreastScreen Victoria does not investigate or diagnose conditions associated with breast implants. We encourage clients to talk to their doctor about their implants before attending a screen.
Possible breast implant abnormalities are not always obvious on a screening mammogram, however if a possible implant abnormality is incidentally noted BreastScreen Victoria will notify both the client and their GP.
BreastScreen Victoria collects information about women’s family history of breast and ovarian cancer so we can provide them with better care. It does not include all risk factors for breast cancer. Other factors may increase or decrease the risk of developing breast cancer. We strongly recommend that clients assessed as at increased risk see their doctor for a more detailed clinical assessment, and if the clinical assessment confirms a high risk status, referral to a specialised clinic.
Clients assessed as at increased risk may be invited for annual screening, depending on their age and assessed risk level.
For information on familial risk assessment for breast and ovarian cancer use Cancer Australia's Familial Risk Assessment (FRA-BOC).