Benefits and harms

It is important women have information to make informed decisions about their health. Weighing up the potential benefits and harms will help you decide whether a breastscreen is right for you and whether or not you take part in the BreastScreen Australia Program.

What are the potential benefits?

  • Preventing deaths from breast cancer. Having a breastscreen every two years through BreastScreen Queensland reduces the overall number of women who die each year from breast cancer.
  • Less invasive treatment. If breast cancer is detected early, there are increased treatment and management options. This is because breast cancer can be treated more effectively when it is still small and has not spread outside the breast to other parts of the body.
  • Reassurance. The majority of women will be reassured that their breastscreen results showed 'no evidence of breast cancer'.
  • If breast cancer is detected early, there are increased treatment and management options. This is because breast cancer can be treated more effectively when it is still small and has not spread outside the breast to other parts of the body.

What are the potential harms?

  • Finding and treating breast cancers that may not have become life-threatening. At this time, it is not possible to tell exactly which breast cancers may become life-threatening and which may not.
  • Further tests done but breast cancer is not found. About 10% of all women who have a breastscreen will be called back to the service for more tests. This may cause anxiety when most women will be told after these further tests that they don't have breast cancer.
  • Breast cancer is present but not found. While a mammogram is the best way of finding breast cancers early, they are not 100 per cent accurate. A small number of breast cancers may not be visible on the mammogram at the time of screening.

For more information about screening for breast cancer and the potential benefits and harms, click on BreastScreen and You

Last reviewed 04 May 2017 Last updated 04 May 2017

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