From age 50, you're entering the highest risk stage for breast cancer with around 70% of all cases diagnosed in women 50 plus. You can increase the chances of early detection by having regular mammograms, being breast aware, and getting any changes between mammograms checked out promptly.
Also be aware that your risk of breast cancer increases if you've taken combined HRT for more than 5 years. Talk to your doctor about alternative treatments in dealing with menopause.
If you're 50 or over:
Get a mammogram every two years, unless recommended otherwise by your doctor. Ask about your breast density after your mammogram and whether it's normal. Dense breast tissue can increase the risk of breast cancer and it can make tumours difficult to spot. A woman with dense breast tissue may require closer monitoring.
Free mammograms from 45-69 years
If you haven't enrolled for free mammograms you're still eligible to do so. All women (with no prior history of symptoms) can sign up to the national screening programme, BreastScreen Aotearoa, freephone 0800 270 200.
Keep having mammograms after age 69 when the free screening programme ends. Women in their seventies and eighties are still at risk. You'll have to pay for a mammogram and the cost could range from $110 - $180 so it pays to call around. Your doctor or practice nurse will be able to suggest a local radiology clinic or you can search the Foundation's Pink Pages.
Unusual breast changes
If you detect any changes between mammograms, go and see your doctor promptly
Share your family history
If you or your mum have had breast cancer, share this with any younger women in your family. The risk of inherited breast cancer is low at between 5-10% of all cases but all women need to be alert for breast changes and know to get them checked out. Talk to your doctor if you have any family history.
Reduce your risk of breast cancer.
There are lifestyle factors which are scientifically proven to lower the risk of breast cancer. Maintain a healthy body weight, lower your alcohol intake, and exercise often. Also avoid HRT if possible, talk to your doctor about alternative treatments for menopause. These lifestyle factors can help reduce estrogen levels which feed many types of breast cancer.