There are a number of screening tests available to identify tumours in the breast or surrounding tissue. These include:
Mammograms are the most commonly used way to detect breast cancer in women who have no other obvious signs or symptoms of the disease. BCAC advises all women between the ages of 45 and 69 to take advantage of the free breast screening programme run by BreastScreen Aotearoa. In 2017 the government committed to extending free mammograms to those aged 70 to 74 years, but this has not yet been implemented (September 2022).
Ultrasound is often used once an abnormality has been identified in a mammogram test to determine the extent and localisation of the disease. However, sometimes ultrasound is used to identify a suspicious lump that can be felt by you or your doctor.
A breast MRI scan may sometimes be offered, but in general is not routinely used as a screening test.
You may have seen thermography advertised as a screening tool for breast cancer. BCAC does not recommend thermography as a screening or diagnostic tool. There has been no detailed scientific evidence to show that thermography is a reliable and effective screening test or diagnostic tool. For more information, read our position statement on thermography.