Discussing screening with your patient

Our research shows that many women who have never had a mammogram believe they will never get cancer. We need you as a health professional to raise mammographic screening for breast cancer in discussions with your patients and emphasise its importance, particularly for women aged 50-74 years.

The same research[1] also shows women without a family history of breast cancer believed they were not at risk of developing breast cancer. 9 out of 10 women who develop breast cancer do not a have family history of breast cancer[2]. It is therefore important to talk to your patient about breast cancer risk factors.

You and your patient can use the Cancer Australia Risk Calculator to understand your patient’s risk of breast cancer.

This research shows that screening mammograms are not top of mind for women. It also shows that women who have not maintained regular screening mammograms consider a lack of time and inconvenience as two of the barriers to having regular screening mammograms.

There are misconceptions around breast cancer screening in all groups of women. Women can also find the topic embarrassing to talk about.

Not all women understand the concept of population screening, especially those who have little experience with the health system or who come from countries where population health initiatives are uncommon. Explaining the purpose of population screening, along with the benefits and risks, can often be very helpful in putting a woman at ease and encouraging her to participate.

It is important for you as a health professional to talk to your patient about breast cancer and breast cancer screening, and dispel any misconceptions that she may have.


[1] The research, conducted in 2011 for BreastScreen NSW, involved both qualitative and quantitative components with groups of eligible women. The quantitative component included a Computer Assisted Telephone Interview of 1,010 women aged 40 to 69. The qualitative component consisted of focus groups and interviews of women aged 40 to 69.


[2] BreastScreen Australia, What are the main risk factors for breast cancer? http://www.cancerscreening.gov.au/internet/screening/publishing.nsf/Content/faqs#riskfactors


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