Mammogram Myths and Facts

Published on Oct 19, 2018
Authored by Pfizer Medical Team

In the fight against breast cancer, screening mammograms can help doctors check for breast cancer in women who don’t have any signs or symptoms of the disease. Regular mammograms—X-ray pictures of the breast— can save lives by detecting breast cancer early, before it spreads. It’s important to speak with your GP about when to start receiving screenings and how often to get one. It may be different for each woman as it depends on family history and your individual history about when to start.

People often have questions about mammograms, though. Do they expose you to harmful radiation? Is routine screening really necessary? Aren’t mammograms expensive? To help uncover the truth, we’ve dispelled some common mammogram myths.

Myth #1: Mammograms can only detect signs of cancer when it’s too late to treat it.

Fact: Mammograms can help doctors find breast cancer in early stages.

Myth #2: Mammograms expose you to dangerous radiation.

Fact: Repeated X-rays can be a health hazard. However, mammograms use a very low level of radiation and the danger posed by them is very small. While the benefits of mammography generally outweigh the risks, women should speak with their doctor about the need for each X-ray.

Myth #3: Breast self-exams are just as effective as mammograms.

Fact: Studies have shown that breast self-exams alone are not enough to reduce the number of breast cancer  deaths. Getting regular mammograms and breast examinations by a doctor are the best way to screen for breast cancer.

Myth #4: Mammograms are too expensive to have regularly.

Fact: BreastScreen Australia, the national breast cancer screening program, offers women aged between 50 and 74 a free mammogram every two years. Women aged 40–49 and those aged over 74 can also be screened free of charge, however they are not sent invitation letters. For more information call BreastScreen Australia on 13 20 50 or visit their website.

BreastScreen Aotearoa is New Zealand’s free national breast screening programme and offers free mammograms every 2 years for women aged between 45 and 69.  For more information, freephone BreastScreen Aotearoa on 0800 270 200 or visit their website.

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References

  • 1. Breast Screen Australia.
  • 2. BreastScreen Aotearoa.
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