Mammogram myth busting - Latest news • Breast Cancer Foundation NZ

Mammogram myth busting

A screening mammogram is an x-ray of the breasts - used to detect breast cancer before it shows any signs or symptoms. Early detection can reduce the chance of dying from breast cancer by approximately one third, as small, early cancers are easier to treat.

1) I don’t have the BRCA mutation so I don’t need to get a mammogram

Most diagnosed breast cancers aren’t due to family history so it’s important that you go and get your regular mammogram regardless of your background.

2) Mammograms take too long – I don’t have time

In the time it takes you to have a shower you could add years to your life. Mammograms only take up to around 15 mins and could detect a lump before you even know it’s there.

3) Thermograms are just as good as mammograms

Thermograms are unable to reliably detect small cancers or cancers deep in the breast tissue. They are not a diagnostic tool, nor a stand-alone breast screening tool. In fact, Thermograms aren’t used anywhere in the world on a breast screening programme. Click here for more information.

4) Finding a lump in my breast means breast cancer

Only a small proportion of lumps are diagnosed as breast cancer, other common lumps could include: a fibroadenoma, breast cysts or other benign fibrocystic masses. It’s still important to go and get these lumps checked with your GP.

5) You can’t have a mammogram if you have breast implants

You still can, however, the implants may cause difficulty in finding a lump. Just make sure you let your technologist know about your implants before you have your mammogram.

6) I don’t need a mammogram until I am 45

We recommend you consider regular mammograms from the age of 40 – make it a priority after your birthday celebrations!

7) Older women don’t need mammograms

The risk of breast cancer increases with age – your risk at 70 is higher than your risk at 50. If you are older you definitely should have regular mammograms, take some friends along and make it a catch up as well as a health check-up. You can even ask your kids to give you a mammogram for Christmas - it may not sound as glorious as a new perfume, but it could turn out to be the best gift you ever received.

8) I don’t need a mammogram because I can’t feel a lump

Mammograms can detect cancer long before you can feel a tumour. In fact, 2mm is the size of the smallest cancer found by a regular mammogram.

9) Mammograms don’t detect the cancer early enough

Mammograms are the best tool for the early detection of breast cancer.

10) Monthly self-exams make no difference

Knowing your boobs is a fantastic way to recognise change - we advocate being breast aware from the age of 20. Make sure you keep encouraging your girl pals to know their normal and do your self-examinations in between mammograms. Report ANY changes to your GP.

BreastScreen Aotearoa provides free mammograms every two years for women aged 45-69. Book yours now by calling 0800 270 200.