1. Start mammograms at 40

A screening mammogram is the best method for the early detection of unsuspected breast cancer in women who have no signs or symptoms of breast cancer, in other words, ‘well’ women. A mammogram is a low dose X-ray of the breast which can detect a tumour when it's tiny, well before a lump or other symptoms appear.  As the risk of breast cancer increases with age, the Foundation recommends women consider an annual screening mammogram from 40-49, then even two years from age 50.

A high risk woman should discuss with her family doctor the age at which she should commence annual diagnostic mammograms.  Tell your doctor if a family history of breast cancer exists. 

From 40-44 years: Paying for screening and diagnostic mammograms: NZ private practices 
Screening and diagnostic mammograms are available throughout NZ at private breast clinics. The cost of a screening or diagnostic mammogram is approximately $100 - $180. Some (but not all) NZ private health insurance companies will reimburse the cost of a private screening or diagnostic mammogram.
(Read our Position Statement on Breast Awareness (PDF, 228Kb) on yearly breast screening mammograms for women 40-49 years of age)

From age 45-69 years:  Free screening mammograms: NZ public health system
The Foundation strongly supports the national breast screening programme, BreastScreen Aotearoa (BSA) which provides free* screening mammograms to New Zealand women 45-69 years, with no symptoms, every two years. To register for this programme phone: 0800 270 200. 

*Some conditions apply:
• You have no symptoms of breast cancer
• You have not had a mammogram in the last 12 months
• You are not pregnant or breastfeeding
• You are eligible for public health services in NZ.  Only NZ citizens or NZ residents are entitled to free diagnostic mammograms through the NZ public health system (at a hospital).

From age 70 onwards: Paying for screening and diagnostic mammograms: NZ private practices
You are more at risk now than in your 50s. Talk to your GP about where to go for a mammogram. If you have no symptoms, the cost will be $100-180. 

Free Diagnostic Mammograms: NZ Public Health System
Diagnostic mammograms are for women at any age who have significant signs and/or symptoms of breast disease which require investigation

• Have no signs and/or symptoms of breast cancer, but are considered to be at high-risk for the development of breast cancer. High-risk women are those who have had:
o A previous breast cancer
o A breast histology demonstrating an at-risk lesion, for example, atypical ductal hyperplasia
• A mother or sister with:
o Pre-menopausal breast cancer
OR Bilateral breast cancer
OR A breast histology demonstrating an at-risk lesion (Cunliffe Dec 2007)

Read more about mammograms