Health & Wellbeing

10 Reasons Why Women Don’t Attend Breast Screenings

Make this the month you check your mammogram screening is up to date.

We’ve all heard the alarming statistics. Breast cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia, with more than 20,000 females diagnosed in Australia this year alone. This disease upends the lives of those diagnosed, but also the lives of their partner, their families, and their community.

Still, some women are slow to have their breasts screened for early signs of the disease, despite mammograms finding early signs of breast cancer before they are seen or felt. 

New Idea has partnered with Australia’s national breast cancer screening program, BreastScreen Australia, to discover why some women aren’t getting their breasts regularly screened . Here, we share the reasons, the solutions and bust some of those myths, so you can take care of your health. 

1. “I don’t have a family history.”

There is a strong misconception among women that family history increases your chances of developing breast cancer; and that if your mother, aunt, grandmother or sister have never been diagnosed, you don’t need to get a mammogram.

FACT: An incredible nine out of 10 women with breast cancer do NOT have a family history of the disease. It is vital all women get their breasts screened regularly.

three women

2. “A mammogram is painful”

Some women report that screening mammograms are uncomfortable.

FACT: It shouldn’t hurt. If you experience discomfort, alert your radiographer at any time, and they can help you. 

3. “The cost.”

You absolutely shouldn’t let the worry about cost deter you from getting your breasts screened.

FACT: BreastScreen Australia invites eligible women from the age of 50-74 to attend a free breast screening mammogram every two years.  

4. “I’m embarrassed about my body.”

FACT: Your female radiographer will do everything she can to make you feel comfortable. This includes giving you privacy to remove your top and making you feel as comfortable as possible while she gets the x-ray images needed.

FACT #2: All BreastScreen Australia radiographers are female. 

5. “COVID anxiety and lockdowns.”

COVID lockdowns interfered with many women’s plans to get their breasts screened — and some women are still not booking in, despite services reopening. 

FACT: BreastScreen Australia has a number of measures to ensure the safety of women, staff and the community. You can contact your local breast screening provider to discuss their COVID safe measures and book an appointment

6. “I don’t know where a local BreastScreen service is.”

FACT: Free mammograms are available in more than 750 locations across Australia, in every state and territory. Between fixed clinics, purpose-built mobile buses and 4WDs, there’s sure to be one near you; find out by calling 13 20 50 or visiting the BreastScreen website here.

7. “I don’t know what age to start screening.”

FACTS: Under the age of 40, women are at a lower risk of developing breast cancer; over 75% of breast cancers are found in women aged between 50 to 74, so between those ages, you should screen every 2 years. If you’re younger, keep up with regular self-checks, and if you notice something unusual — a change in appearance or feel of your breasts — consult your doctor.

8. “I forget.”

FACT: Appointments every two years are easy to forget so BreastScreen Australia helps out by sending women aged between 50 and 74 — the recommended ages for regular screening — a reminder letter. This way, you know exactly when you’re due and can easily book an appointment that suits you.

9. “I’m not sure about how effective mammograms are.”

FACT: Mammograms are the most effective method of detecting breast cancer early. For every 1,000 eligible women screened every 2 years, around eight deaths from breast cancer will be prevented. Since the national screening program was established, 5 year survival rates for breast cancer have improved from 77 per cent to 92 per cent.

10. “I don’t want to know if I have breast cancer.”

FACT: Early detection leads to better outcomes. That is, treatment is less invasive, there is a lower risk of mastectomy and chemotherapy, survival rates are higher, and you can return to living your normal, best life faster. 

Breast cancer treatment is most effective when cancers are still small — it is unquestionably best to screen your breasts regularly to detect any possible cancer early.

One reason why you should book a breast screen …

If not for any other reason, you should have your breasts screened regularly because you are the best advocate for yourself, for your health, and for your life. The one reason you should have regular breast screens is because early detection could save your life. Allowing you to continue doing the things you love, like morning walks, spending time with your families; or simply being your own unique self. 

Be your own breast friend, take control of your health, check your breast screening is up to date and if you are due, book your screening mammogram today.

Brought to you by BreastScreen Australia – the national breast cancer screening program, with over 750 locations operating across every state and territory. Women aged 50 – 74 are invited to book a free screening mammogram every two years. Book your appointment by calling 13 20 50, or through the BreastScreen Australia website here.

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