Who can have a free screening mammogram?
A woman can have a free screening mammogram every two years through BreastScreen Aotearoa if she:
- is between 45 and 69 years old
- has no symptoms of breast cancer
- has not had a mammogram in the last 12 months
- is not pregnant or breastfeeding
- is eligible for public health services in New Zealand, i.e. is a New Zealand citizen or has a New Zealand visa that is valid for at least two years.
If a woman has a breast symptom that has been present for less than twelve months, she is not eligible to enrol with BreastScreen Aotearoa.
Women of any age who feel or notice anything unusual about their breasts, at any time, should see their doctor.
Most lumps and symptoms will not be cancer.
Women with mobility disabilities
We can screen women in wheelchairs or with mobility issues at our main screening location of Manukau SuperClinic in Manurewa or at our sub-sites in Howick, Pukekohe and Botany.
Unfortunately, we are not able to accommodate wheelchairs on our mobile screening unit due to space issues.
Please make sure when you book your appointment that we are aware of any mobility issues or other disabilities you may have, as we will allow extra time.
Women with breast implants
Women with breast implants can have mammograms at any of our screening sites. When you book your appointment, please ensure we are aware that you have implants so that we can allow extra time.
Women under 45 years of age
Three-quarters of women diagnosed with breast cancer in New Zealand are 50 years and older. Studies show that for women aged 50 and over, the risk of death from breast cancer is reduced by about a third with two-yearly screening mammograms. In women aged 45 - 50 years, the risk of death from breast cancer is reduced by a fifth with regular mammography.
Research shows that mammograms are not as good at detecting breast cancer and saving lives in younger women, particularly before menopause. In younger women, the breast tissue may be more dense, making mammograms harder to read and increasing the risk of missing cancers. Women under 45 are more likely to have something show up on their mammogram that needs checking but turns out not to be cancer, causing unnecessary worry.
If you feel or notice anything about your breasts that is not usual for you, please see your doctor. Your doctor may then refer to the diagnostic breast clinic in your area for a free assessment of any abnormality in your breast.
Click here for information for women with symptoms.
Women 70 years and over
Women aged 70 years and older are not eligible for BreastScreen Aotearoa as there is very little evidence of the benefit of screening women over 70.
Discuss with your doctor whether you should still have mammograms. Women over 70 may pay to have a mammogram or, in some cases where a woman has a greater than average risk of getting breast cancer, she may be eligible for free mammograms through the public system.
Women with a family history of breast cancer or other risk factors
A strong family history of breast cancer includes a mother, sister, daughter, male relative or two aunts with premenopausal or bilateral breast cancer, or multiple family members.
Women who have a strong history of premenopausal breast cancer in their family may be eligible for free yearly mammograms through their local District Health Board (DHB) if referred by their doctor. If these women are eligible for the BreastScreen Aotearoa programme, they may alternate yearly between BreastScreen Aotearoa mammograms and the DHB's mammography unit.
Women with other specific risk factors for breast cancer may also be eligible for free yearly screening through their DHB. These include a past history of breast cancer, Atypical Ductal Hyperplasia, Lobular Carcinoma In-Situ, radiotherapy, a history of mantle radiotherapy or BRCA I or II.
Speak to your doctor for a referral through the public health system if you believe you may be eligible for yearly screening.
Women who have had breast cancer
If you have had breast cancer it is very important that you have regular check-ups with your doctor, especially in the first five years after your cancer was found. These should include a thorough breast examination and an annual mammogram. One of the reasons for this is that you are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer again.
BreastScreen Aotearoa recommends that you continue to visit your breast specialist or usual doctor for these ongoing annual check-ups. The specialist or doctor will organise an annual mammogram for you. This mammogram is free if it is through a public hospital.
When can you rejoin BreastScreen Aotearoa after having breast cancer?
After having breast cancer, you can have a screening mammogram every two years through BreastScreen Aotearoa if:
- you are between 45 and 69 years old
- you have no breast problems
- you are not pregnant or breastfeeding
- your breast cancer was treated more than five years ago and you have been cleared by your doctor to return to the BreastScreen Aotearoa programme.
If you do rejoin BreastScreen Aotearoa you should still continue to have an annual breast examination by your doctor. A normal consultation fee would usually be charged.