Screening vs Diagnostic Mammography

Many women have questions for their GP on the difference between screening and diagnostic mammography. This table outlines the differences between these procedures.

Differences between screening and diagnostic mammograms

Many women have questions for their GP regarding the difference between screening and diagnostic mammography.

To help you advise your patients accordingly, the following table outlines the main differences between these procedures.

Screening mammography


Diagnostic mammography

Detecting unsuspected lesions in asymptomatic ‘well’ women.


What is it for?

Diagnosing breast changes or abnormalities that may have been detected through breast self-exam (BSE) and/or clinical examination.

Mass population screening to reduce overall mortality and morbidity.


What is the emphasis?

Individual benefit.


BreastScreen NSW services at both fixed and mobile locations.


Where is the service provided?

Private radiology practices, private breast clinics and public hospital radiology departments as required on referral from GP or surgeon.


Women aged 40 years and over, with women aged 50–74 years actively recruited.

Women aged 74 and over are also eligible.

Who is it for?

Women or men of any age who have symptoms.




What does it cost

Medicare rebate may be available but out-of-pocket costs may be incurred.


No, but recommendations from health professionals are strongly encouraged.


Is a referral required?

Yes, referral required from medical practitioner.


Screening for and assessing impalpable lesions.

Mammograms are read independently by two specially trained radiologists. 

What do staff specialise in?

A range of diagnostic procedures.

Experience in breast cancer, mainly with women presenting with palpable lesions/changes.

Results letter notifying the screened woman and her primary health care provider (if nominated) are delivered in approximately two weeks.

Where screening results are abnormal, notification is sent to the screened woman and her nominated primary health care provider as soon as possible.

How are results provided?

Full report sent to GP or surgeon, usually within a few days.

Go to Resources and Publications to access useful publications for patients requiring more information on breast screening.

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