Questions and answers

What if I have breast implants?
What if I'm breastfeeding?
What if I think I may be pregnant?
What if I am pregnant?
What if I am taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT)?
What if I've noticed a sign or symptom?
What should I do between my two yearly breastscreens?
What is the difference between a screening mammogram (breastscreen) and a diagnostic mammogram?
Are free mammograms available to men as part of the BreastScreen Queensland program?
How secure is my personal information?

Email cssb@health.qld.gov.au to send comments and feedback.

What if I have breast implants?

Women over 40 with breast implants are eligible to have a breastscreen at a BreastScreen Queensland Service. Before you have your breastscreen you will be asked to sign an additional consent form. You should note though that breast implants will obscure some of the breast tissue, making it more difficult to detect small breast cancers.

BreastScreen Queensland radiographers are specially trained to take a high quality breastscreen when breast implants are present. Breast cancer screening is generally safe for women with implants. There is a very slight chance of damage to the implant but this is rare.

It is important to note that identifying and reporting implant problems is not the role of BreastScreen Queensland services. Screening mammography is for the purpose of detecting breast cancer only and will not include commentary on the status of your implants.

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What if I'm breastfeeding?

Women who are breastfeeding are eligible to participate in the BreastScreen Queensland Program and have a breastscreen, but it is the woman's decision as to whether she wishes to have a breastscreen at this time. The decision must be made in consideration of the following:

  • breast cancer screening on lactating breasts is less effective because the breasts are much more dense with stored milk. On a breastscreen, dense breast tissue shows up as a solid white area making small cancers, which also show up white, almost impossible to see.
  • the breasts tend to be more sensitive and the process of mammography may be more painful.

If a woman decides to participate in screening, the woman will be asked to bring her baby with her and to feed the baby or express milk just prior to her breastscreen so that the breast will contain the smallest amount of milk possible.

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What if I think I may be pregnant?

Women who may be pregnant are eligible to participate in the BreastScreen Queensland Program and have a breastscreen, but it is the woman's decision as to whether she wishes to have a breastscreen at this time. The woman's decision must be made in consideration of the risks of mammography during pregnancy and the risks to her own health in delaying her breastscreen.

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What if I am pregnant?

Women who are pregnant are eligible to participate in the BreastScreen Queensland Program and have a breastscreen, but it is the woman's decision as to whether she wishes to have a breastscreen at this time. The woman's decision must be made in consideration of:

  • the potential radiation risks to the foetus and the potential risks to her own health in delaying her breastscreen. The amount of x-ray radiation that may make its way to the foetus is very small, however this potential risk should be considered.
  • breasts may be extremely dense from early in the pregnancy. On a breastscreen, dense breast tissue shows up as a solid white area making small cancers, which also show up white, almost impossible to see.
  • breasts will be more sensitive and firmer which may cause discomfort.

As a result, you may want to contact your doctor to discuss this decision.

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What if I am taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT)?

Women on combined hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for greater than 3 years are at an increased risk of breast cancer. Breast cancers detected in women taking combined HRT are also more advanced than those in women not taking HRT. Also, women taking HRT are more likely than non-users to have dense breasts. Breastscreens are slightly less reliable in women who have dense breasts.

Women on combined HRT should have a breastscreen every two years unless otherwise advised. There is currently no evidence that having a breastscreen every 12 months improved the ability to detect breast cancer in women taking combined HRT.

Women who start taking combined HRT should be aware that they are more likely to develop breast changes. This may require further tests to rule out breast cancer.

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What if I've noticed a sign or symptom?

The BreastScreen Queensland Program is directed at asymptomatic women, that is, women without signs or symptoms of breast cancer. Women who report a breast sign or symptom at the time of booking an appointment or upon presenting to a BreastScreen Queensland Service will be transferred to a nurse counsellor or medical officer to determine whether an appointment with their doctor is more appropriate.

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What should I do between my two yearly breastscreens?

Breast cancer can develop in between your two yearly breastscreens. It is important for women to be aware of the normal look and feel of their breasts. If women find a breast lump, nipple discharge or any breast changes that are of concern, women should contact their doctor without delay. Women should check their breasts regularly and have a breastscreen every two years.

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What is the difference between a screening mammogram (breastscreen) and a diagnostic mammogram?

A screening mammogram refers to a breastscreen (an x-ray of the breast) that can detect small changes in breast tissue before they can be felt by a woman or her doctor. A breastscreen is for women who do not have any signs or symptoms of breast cancer. It is usually done every two years. BreastScreen Queensland provides screening mammograms as the Service is only for women who have no breast symptoms.

A diagnostic mammogram is a mammogram that women have if they notice a change in their breast such as a lump. A diagnostic mammogram is generally performed in a general diagnostic imaging practice. A referral to have a diagnostic mammogram is needed from a general practitioner or surgeon and will usually include other imaging such as an ultrasound and a biopsy.

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Are free mammograms available to men as part of the BreastScreen Queensland program?

For men, the harms of screening mammograms are currently assessed as outweighing the benefits. These harms include undergoing unnecessary procedures, discomfort during screening, and exposure to low-dose radiation. As a result, men are not targeted in the BreastScreen Queensland program and are instead encouraged to report any changes or concerns they have about their breasts to their doctor.

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How secure is my personal information?

BreastScreen Queensland will collect your personal information when you make an appointment and attend a screening and assessment service. This information is securely stored at a central database located in Brisbane called the BreastScreen Queensland Register.

Personal information collected by BreastScreen Queensland is handled in accordance with the Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld) (IP Act) and in accordance with the National Privacy Principles. To protect your personal information, Queensland Health staff must follow the privacy principles contained in the IP Act and also Part 7 of the Hospital and Health Boards Act 2011 (Qld) (HHB Act) which sets out duty of confidentiality.

Information that would identify you is not released to anyone outside the BreastScreen Queensland Program without your prior knowledge and consent. For example, the results of your breastscreen will only be forwarded to your doctor if you have given your consent for the release of this information.

For more information about how Queensland Health proects your personal information, or to learn about your rights to access your own personal information, please see our website at www.health.qld.gov.au/global/privacy.

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Last reviewed 04 May 2017 Last updated 04 May 2017

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