BreastScreen Australia is a breast cancer screening program of the Department of Health. The nationwide program offers free mammograms once every two years to all women aged fifty up to seventy four. BreastScreen Australia is an initiative of the federal government to facilitate early detection of breast cancer so deaths can be prevented. Breast cancer is treatable in its early stages and the risk of fatality is reduced to almost nil if a woman is diagnosed at the nascent phase of a malignant tumor.
The Breast Screening Process in Australia
Mammograms are a reliable diagnosing method. Health professionals who perform mammograms are known as radiographers. They are trained to operate the diagnostic equipment and can also help interpret the images, thereby identifying tumors. BreastScreen Australia is a systematic process. Women can sign up for the free mammogram anytime in two years and they would be provided all the information by the radiographer at the time of the scheduled appointment. The mammogram is performed in an enclosed private room. It is necessary to remove clothes but only till the waist.
A radiographer will perform mammogram of one breast at a time. The machine has two plates that would press the breast from either side firmly but not in a manner that causes any pain and the process takes around ten seconds. Once the picture is taken, the same process is repeated for the other breast. Then the plates are placed atop and beneath the breasts, one at a time, to get another pair of pictures. Two pictures of each breast would be taken for a comprehensive diagnosis. The entire process usually takes much less than half an hour but you should keep aside thirty minutes for the complete appointment, right from the time you arrive at one of the facilities till the time you leave.
Mammogram is a completely safe process and there is absolutely no serious side effect. It is not unusual for women to experience a little discomfort when the plates press against the breasts but it is transient. If you feel substantial discomfort, then you must inform the radiographer and the exerted pressure can be reduced, even released. Although mammogram uses radiation, the exposure is about the same as a few weeks exposure to natural radiation in the environment.
Should you choose BreastScreen?
The most common type of cancer among women in Australia is breast cancer. Men may have breast cancer too but incidence is rare in comparison. Breast cancer has become increasingly common around the world but it is completely curable. The abnormal cells in the tissues of the breast tend to multiply and they transform into an invasive tumour. An invasive tumour is deemed as malignant. A noncancerous tumour is benign. Noninvasive or benign tumours do not call for any treatment or cure. Invasive or malignant tumours must be surgically removed and steps should be taken to stop the spread and further recurrence of breast cancer.
There are many steps you can take to be more aware of the health of your breasts. You can conduct a physical self exam to know if there are lumps, possibly tumours and then you can go for BreastScreen. You can check if you have any lumpiness in your breasts, if there is any noticeable change in the shape or size of either or both your breasts, if there is any ulcer or crusting around the nipples, any puckering or redness, dimpling or other physical anomaly on your breast. You may also feel pain but not all tumours are painful so a painless breast is not an indicator of the absence of a tumour.
There is no reason why you should not go for a free mammogram once every two years if you think there is a lump or tumour in your breast. Women aged fifty to seventy four are at greater risk of breast cancer and the condition turns worse rather swiftly, which is why the program is aimed at this age bracket. Women who have had breast cancer and have been cured should always be proactive with follow-ups as a recurrence can be prevented. Even if the recurrence cannot be prevented, it can be contained from getting worse.
Breast Screening in Australia
You can always consult an oncologist if you have a tumour in your breast. The oncologist will recommend all the necessary tests to diagnose if it is breast cancer. The size and shape of the tumour would be observed and changes would be tracked. There would be proactive supervision and that would lead to the recommended course of treatment. Surgery is often recommended and then chemotherapy may or may not be necessary depending on the stage of breast cancer. BreastScreen is not applicable for women younger than fifty so consulting an oncologist is the only option.
More than fourteen thousand women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the country. The risk of breast cancer is directly proportional to age. Older women are more likely to develop breast cancer and that is where the free mammogram becomes useful. Survivors of breast cancer would already have a thorough medical follow-up plan and that would include a mammogram once every year but they can also sign up for the BreastScreen program. You can contact 13 20 50 and find out everything about the initiative, where you must go, how you should schedule an appointment and the recommended steps after the mammogram.