Breast Cancer Screening Walk-Through

So, you want to take charge of your health and need to book a breast screening appointment with BreastScreen NSW. Let’s go through what you can expect step by step. (Regular mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early in people with breasts over 50.)

LGBTQ+ community members can experience unique barriers when it comes to breast* screening. The purpose of this blog is to take you on a step-by-step of the breast screening process from booking an appointment to receiving your results. Hopefully, demystify the process and remove some barriers along the way.

Information is power so knowing what to expect can help manage any anxiety around your appointment. It can also help you think about what supports could make the screening process easier for you. We understand that it’s not always easy to speak up and ask for what we need when it comes to being treated the way we would like to be treated by healthcare professionals. But breast screening is important because your health is important.

*A quick word on our use of “breast”. Everyone (regardless of gender) has breast tissue. Breast cancer refers to cancer in this tissue. At CAN WE, when we say ‘breast’ we’re doing so in a non-gendered, medical sense.


Firstly, Who Should Have A Breast Cancer Screen?

  • It is recommended that women aged 50-74, have a screening mammogram (breast screen) every two years. You should automatically start receiving invitations when you turn 50.
  • This includes trans women who have been on hormones (estrogen) for more than 5 years.
  • Assumed female at birth (AFAB) trans folk with breasts who have not had top surgery, aged 50-74, should be screening every two years.
  • If you have had top surgery, you may not be eligible for screening. Talk to your doctor about your personal risk and screening recommendations. This may include having your remaining breast tissue screened via ultrasound. Looking for a gender affirming GP? Transhub has a list of them!
  • If you’re 40-49 years or over 74 years old, you’re still eligible for free screening, you just won’t receive an invitation or reminder. This is because BreastScreen NSW targets women 50 – 74 years and routine breast screening is less effective for women 40 – 49 years. You can speak to your GP about whether breast screening is right for you.

For more information on breast cancer and breast screening check out our campaign Our United Front.


So, you need to have a breast screen. Here’s what to do next…

1. Scheduling A Breast Cancer Screening Appointment:

  • Book your appointment with BreastScreen NSW via their website here or call 13 20 50. There are lots of options for where to screen across NSW these include dedicated screening centers or mobile van locations.
  • You don’t need a doctor’s referral.
  • Now is a good time to start thinking about any specific needs you have regarding your breast screen. For example: Is there personal information you would like to share with BreastScreen NSW such as your gender identity and pronouns, or do you require any other accommodations due to things like sensory issues.
  • If you have a physical disability, you can discuss your needs when booking.
  • If you have breast implants please inform the staff when booking. Most people with implants can have a breast screen.
  • The BreastScreen NSW health information database is private and confidential.


2. Appointment Confirmation:

  • Once you’ve got your appointment set, you will receive a confirmation letter, email, or SMS containing the details of your appointment, including the date, time, and location. Keep that info handy!


3. Preparing for your Breast Cancer Screening Appointment:


  • Now, let’s talk about preparing for the appointment. If you thought of some accommodations you would like to request, you or a support person can call BreastScreen NSW on 13 20 50 to discuss them ahead of your appointment.
  • Don’t apply creams or deodorants on the day as this can affect your x-ray images.
  • BreastScreen NSW staff are there to help. They can provide information and support and address worries you may have.


4. Arriving at the Breast Cancer Screening Clinic:


  • Plan your journey in advance, and consider transportation options that will best suit your needs.
  • You’re welcome to bring a friend for support.
  • If you have requested special accommodations, you and/or your support person can call ahead to remind BreastScreen NSW staff of this.


5. Check-In and Registration:


  • You will be greeted by clinic staff who will guide you through the check-in process.
  • They will ask you to fill out some paperwork, including a registration form. If you need any assistance or find forms challenging, don’t hesitate to ask for help. They’re there to assist you.


6. Privacy and Respect:

  • BreastScreen NSW values your privacy and respects your gender identity. They aim to create a safe and inclusive environment for all patients.
  • Reminder: if you have a preferred name or pronouns, let the staff know, so they can address you accordingly throughout the appointment.


7. Communication and Support:

  • The staff will explain the screening process to you, making sure you know what’s going to happen. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to ask. They are there to support you.
  • If you have sensory or other specific needs let the radiographer know. They will do their best to accommodate you and make you as comfortable as possible.
  • If you require additional communication support like a translator, written materials, or visual aids, you can request those too.


8. The Breast Cancer Screening Process:

  • During the screening, a female radiographer will guide you through the process. All radiographers at BreastScreen NSW are female. They’ll make sure you’re comfortable and informed every step of the way.
  • You will be asked to undress from the waist up. Let the radiographer know if you have any concerns or preferences regarding the process. For example, if you wear a binder you may want a little more time to take the binder off and put it back on before and after your breast screen.


9. The Mammogram:

  • A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast. The radiographer will position your breast on the x-ray machine and apply controlled compression to obtain clear images.
  • The compression may feel slightly uncomfortable but should not be painful. If you experience significant discomfort, inform the radiographer, and they will make immediate adjustments.
  • BreastScreen NSW radiographers are highly trained and aim to create a supportive and calming environment. They’ll explain each step, give you clear instructions, and make sure you’re as comfortable as possible during the procedure.
  • Screening is very quick. The entire appointment usually takes about 20 minutes.


10. Post Breast Cancer Screening:


  • After the mammogram, the radiographer will review the images to ensure they are of good quality. This is an essential part of the screening process to obtain accurate results.
  • They may ask you to wait briefly while they verify the images before you can leave.


11. Breast Screening Results and Follow-Up:

  • Your x-rays will be reviewed by two image specialists and results will be sent to you via mail within a couple of weeks. If any further tests or follow-up are necessary, BreastScreen NSW will reach out to you directly.
  • If you have any questions or concerns about your results, reach out to BreastScreen NSW for assistance and guidance.


Remember, BreastScreen NSW is committed to providing inclusive and accessible care to all folks using their service. They are there to support you throughout the process. So, don’t be afraid to communicate your specific needs and seek help when you need it. Your health is important. You’ve got this!

You can book your next breast screen here


*This guide was developed in consultation with BreastScreen NSW and the Cancer Institute NSW.