Policy

Page last updated: 24 May 2018

BreastScreen Australia provides free two-yearly breast cancer screening to women through dedicated screening and assessment services. Women have a screening mammogram performed at a screening unit (which may be fixed, relocatable or mobile).

Women whose images are suspicious for breast cancer will be recalled for further investigation by a multidisciplinary team at an assessment centre. Further investigation may include clinical examination, mammography, ultrasound and biopsy procedures. Most women who are recalled for assessment are found not to have breast cancer.

BreastScreen Australia actively invites women aged 50-74 to have free two-yearly breast cancer screening. Women aged 40-49 and 75 or over are also eligible to attend. Women aged 50-74 are targeted because the risk of breast cancer has been found to increase with age, and screening mammography is known to be effective in reducing breast cancer deaths in this age group.

Screening mammography is less accurate in women under 40. Breast tissue in younger women is denser than in older women. As dense breast tissue and cancer both appear opaque on an x-ray, detecting cancer using mammogram in younger women is less likely to be accurate.

Given its reduced effectiveness in women under 40, the cost of mammogram in this age group (eg undergoing unnecessary procedures, discomfort during screening, exposure to low-dose radiation) is currently thought to outweigh the benefits.

Policy Statements

Information on specific policies within BreastScreen Australia

Information Papers

Papers on emerging issues relevant to BreastScreen Australia

Appropriate Items for 3D Tomosynthesis

On 29 April, 2018 the Australian Government announced changes to breast imaging covered by Medicare following advice from the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Review Taskforce. The MBS changes are not related to breast screening services. As set out in the Commonwealth’s Fact Sheet, Appropriate Items for 3D Breast Tomosynthesis, from 1 November 2018, the Australian Government will include two new time-limited items on the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) for three dimensional breast tomosynthesis (3DBT), often called 3D mammography. The 3DBT items will be used for diagnostic testing of individuals where malignancy is suspected (often identified through a screening mammogram).

The new items are an interim measure (for two years) to enable an application for long-term funding to be lodged by the sector and considered by the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC).

Current Policy Activities

The Department of Health has funded literature reviews to ensure that robust evidence underpins two BreastScreen Australia position statements: the Position Statement on Breast Density and Screening, and the Position Statement on the use of Tomosynthesis within BreastScreen Australia services.

The Department of Health welcomes input from consumers on the evidence that underpins the BreastScreen Australia Position Statement on Breast Density. A time limited survey is available at: (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BSApositionstatementonbreastdensity). The survey will close at 11:59pm on 20 June 2018.