Benefits and limitations of screening mammograms

Below is information about the benefits and limitations of breast screening. This information can help inform you about whether to have a screening mammogram.

What are the benefits of breast screening?

  • Preventing deaths from breast cancerBreast screening reduces the number of women who die from breast cancer.
  • Breast screening can find very small breast cancers before they can be felt or noticed.
  • You have a better chance of survival when breast cancer is found early by a screening mammogram.


What are the limitations of breast screening?

  • Screening mammograms are the most effective test for finding breast cancer early. However, they are not 100% accurate. There is a small chance that a screening mammogram will look normal even if a breast cancer is present.      
  • Some women will be called back for more tests after a screening mammogram because the mammogram showed an abnormality. For most of these women, the mammogram is found to be normal and breast cancer is not found.
  • Most breast cancers that are found through BreastScreen would grow and be life-threatening if they were not treated. However, some breast cancers that are found and treated 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 breast cancers may not.
  • Having a screening mammogram means your breasts are exposed to a small amount of radiation. Modern mammography machines use the smallest amount of radiation possible while still getting a high quality x-ray picture. The radiation from screening is about the same as going on an international flight.

For more information read BreastScreen and You brochure


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