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Group of young women under 40 who are not eligible for a free mammogram with breast screen NSW.

Women under 40 and screening

Women under 40 are not eligible to attend BreastScreen NSW. If you do notice any changes to your breasts such as a lump, pain or nipple discharge, you should see your doctor as soon as possible. 

Women under 40 are not eligible because: 

  1. BreastScreen NSW is a population-based screening program recommended for women aged 50–74 years. More than 75% of breast cancers occur in women aged 50 or over.1471
  2. The tissue of young women’s breasts tends to be denser than that of older women. This is due to the influence of hormones. On a breast screen (mammogram), dense breast tissue shows up as a white area. Breast cancers also appear white and can be more difficult to see on younger women’s breast screens. Breast screens are usually more accurate as women get older, as the breast tissue becomes less dense.  

Breast screening eligibility    

You are welcome to attend BreastScreen NSW when you turn 40. However, a breast screen has been shown to be of most benefit for women aged 50–74 years.


Be breast aware 

Breast health is important for all women, regardless of age. Be breast aware by getting to know the normal look and feel of your breasts. See your doctor as soon as possible if you notice any unusual changes in your breasts such as a lump, skin dimpling, pain, bloody or clear nipple discharge.  


Family history of breast cancer 

About 5% of breast cancers are due to a strong family history or genetic mutation, such as BRCA1 or BRCA2.1522  Younger women who have a relative with breast cancer may have a higher risk of developing the disease. The risk of developing breast cancer will depend on a number of factors including:  

  • How many relatives have had breast cancer 
  • The age when breast cancer was found 
  • How closely you are related

If you are concerned about your family history of breast cancer you should discuss this with your doctor. Genetic counselling can clarify if you are at risk based on your family history.