Breast screening

If you are a woman aged between 45 and 69 years old you could be eligible for a free breast screening (mammogram) every two years through BreastScreen Aotearoa breastscreen-aotearoa.

The free national breast screening programme checks women between those ages who have no symptoms of breast cancer, have not had a mammogram in the last 12 months, are not pregnant or breastfeeding and who are eligible for public health services in New Zealand.

How do I join BreastScreen Aotearoa?

For an appointment phone 0800 270 200 or register on-line register breastscreen-aotearoa and someone will contact you and make an appointment for your mammogram.

If you have been previously screened by BreastScreen Aotearoa you will get a letter inviting you for another mammogram when you are due.

When should I not wait for a mammogram?

See your doctor as soon as possible if you notice any of these breast symptoms:

  • A new lump or thickening
  • A change in breast shape or size
  • Pain in the breast that is unusual
  • Puckering or dimpling of the skin
  • Any change in the nipple such as: A turned in nipple. A discharge that occurs without squeezing. A rash or reddening of the skin that appears only on the breast

Do not wait for your mammogram to have any of these problems checked.

What is a mammogram?

A mammogram is a breast x-ray. It can detect breast cancer early, which means a very good chance of successful treatment. 

Mammograms:

  • Can show changes in the breast tissue before you can see or feel anything;
  • Are safe because they use very small amounts of radiation;
  • Cannot prevent you from getting breast cancer;
  • Can prevent you from dying of breast cancer.

Mammograms can detect about 75 percent of unsuspected cancers in women under 50 years and 85 percent in women over 50 years. However, mammograms are not perfect. Occasionally a mammogram might not pick up a cancer that is present, or it might show something is wrong when all is well. It is more difficult to find a cancer if you are under 50 years, have not reached menopause, or have dense breast tissue. Despite this, mammograms are still the best way of finding early breast cancer.

What happens to my results?

The programme will send your results to you within two weeks of having your mammogram.

For most women, the results will be normal and you will be asked to return for your next mammogram in two years' time.

A small number of women will be phoned to come back because something needs further checking.

This service, which is free, may involve more mammograms, an ultrasound and perhaps the taking of a small sample of breast tissue for examination under a microscope.

Most women recalled will not have breast cancer. The few women who do have breast cancer will be referred to a specialist for treatment. Most women with breast cancer will be advised to have surgery to remove the cancer. Some women will need further treatment such as radiotherapy, hormone therapy, chemotherapy or a combination of these.

Click here to visit the Time to Screen website