The scope of our program

The scope of our program

BreastScreen Victoria provides a population screening service for breast cancer

BreastScreen Victoria is a population screening program, which means we offer our service to the eligible group in the community proven to benefit most from screening. Breast screening is known to be most effective in reducing breast cancer deaths and the impact of treatment among women in the 50-74 age group.

BreastScreen Victoria (BSV) is a free service for women with no breast symptoms. We invite women* aged 50 to 74 years old to have a breast screen regularly, usually every two years.

If you have a breast symptom or changes in the look and feel of your breast, you should see your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor may then request a diagnostic mammogram for you, which looks at your specific problem.

A breast screening mammogram (or breast screen) checks for breast cancer. At your screening appointment, the radiographer will take two images of each breast, which are later examined by two or more radiologists.

In a small number of women, the screening mammogram will show possible signs of breast cancer. If this happens after your breast screen, you will be contacted to attend a second appointment which is called an assessment. An assessment appointment involves further testing such as x-rays, ultrasound, biopsies and clinical examination, so that we can reach a diagnosis. These tests are all performed at our assessment clinics. Our team will decide which tests you require on the day.

*including trans women, and trans men and non-binary people who fit the eligibility criteria.

BreastScreen Victoria uses 2D mammography

BreastScreen Victoria uses 2D digital mammography for breast screening. Diagnostic mammography services will often use tomosynthesis or 3D mammography. We use this technology at our assessment clinics to investigate a change on your screening mammogram.

If you wish to have a mammogram using tomosynthesis, then you will need to speak to your doctor about a referral to a diagnostic imaging service that provides tomosynthesis.

Symptoms and BreastScreen Victoria

If you have a breast symptom or a change to the look and feel of your breasts, the BreastScreen program is not the right service for you. It is important that any symptoms or breast changes are properly investigated by your doctor. They may refer you to a diagnostic imaging service for a mammogram, ultrasound or other procedure to provide a diagnosis. You will receive your results more quickly, where results from a BreastScreen Victoria screening mammogram will take longer.

Some diagnostic imaging services may charge an out-of-pocket fee. To avoid this, your doctor can refer you to a public hospital breast clinic or imaging department.

If you notice a symptom and record it on your BreastScreen Victoria registration form, please be aware that we will not specifically investigate or recall you to our assessment clinic unless we also identify a change of concern on your mammogram. If you do have a symptom, you must see your doctor before your screening appointment so that you can get the care that you need.

Benign changes

After your breast screen, you can expect your results to be available within 2 - 4 weeks if there are no signs of breast cancer. It's important to note that we only report on signs of breast cancer and not other changes or lumps that are determined benign or non-cancerous. This includes cysts or changes that have remained the same since your last breast screen.

Breast density

High breast density means there is a greater amount of glandular and connective tissue in the breast compared to fat. Breast density is not a measure of how the breasts feel, but rather how the breasts look on a mammogram, so it is sometimes also called mammographic density.  Dense breast tissue makes breast cancer screening less accurate because cancers are harder to see. Breast density is also associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.

BreastScreen Victoria does not provide a measure of your breast density. If you wish to get an assessment of your breast density, you will need to ask your doctor to refer you for a mammogram at a diagnostic imaging service that will provide you with this measurement.

A regular mammogram is still the best test for the early detection of breast cancer for women with dense breasts.

Breast implants

BreastScreen Victoria will not advise you of any changes or problems with your breast implants. If you notice a problem or are concerned about your implants, please see your doctor as soon as possible. They will refer you to the service that is most appropriate to investigate any issues with your implants.

What you need to know about BreastScreen Victoria

Dr Alia Kaderbhai is a GP, RACGP Breast Medicine Network Chair, and BreastScreen Victoria Advisor. She describes the BreastScreen Australia program.