Mammograms (breast X-ray screenings) can detect cancer early, often before it can be felt, when it's small and easier to treat. They are recommended for women aged 40 and above every two years. Younger women in high risk groups (i.e. direct family history) should also talk to their doctor about screening and prevention at an earlier age.
A mammogram is less likely to detect breast cancer in women under the age of 40 because the breast tissue is denser, which can make breast cancer much more difficult to detect. Pregnant women are also not recommended to undergo a mammogram to avoid radiation damage to the fetus.
Breast ultrasound is a procedure that may be used to determine whether a lump is a cyst (sac containing fluid) or a solid mass which could be cancer. If it is found to be a cyst, fluid is typically withdrawn from it using a needle and syringe (a process called aspiration). Ultrasound testing works by transmitting high-frequency sound waves, inaudible to the human ear, through the breast. The sound waves bounce off surfaces in the breast (tissue, air, fluid) and these "echoes" are recorded and transformed into video or photographic images.
What if a lump is found?
If a lump or abnormality is detected on a mammogram or ultrasound, a biopsy will be taken to determine if cancer cells are present. For more information on biopsies and further tests, download our breast cancer information booklet from this website or call one of our CancerLink on 3667 3000.