Breast cancer is not common in younger women, affecting around 400 New Zealand women under the age of 40 every year. However, it can be more aggressive, so it's important that women are breast aware and alert for changes from the age of 20. The free mammogram programme is only available to women from age 45, as breast cancer mainly affects women over 50. Younger women also have denser breast tissue (like thick cottonwool) so mammograms are not as effective for screening women under 40 years.
Knowing the signs of breast cancer and what's normal in your breasts will give you the best chance of finding breast cancer early. Having a mother or sister who’s had breast or ovarian cancer at a young age can also increase your risk, so it’s important to talk about and know your family history. It's also important to discuss any family history of cancer with your doctor.
In this section:
Breast aware from 20
As a younger women, who falls outside of the mammogram screening age of 45-69 years, the best way to detect breast cancer is to be breast aware.
Unusual breast changes
If you detect any unusual breast changes, go and see your doctor promptly.
Mammograms and younger women
A mammogram is not usually recommended for women under 40 years of age, as their breasts tend to be denser than older women.
Understand your family history
Talk with mum or family members about breast cancer in your family. Just because your mum or grandmother had breast cancer doesn’t mean you’ll get it too, but be vigilant and know what to do.