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HealthInfo Canterbury

At-risk breast cancer screening

breast cancer screeningAll women in New Zealand who are eligible for publicly funded health services can get a free screening mammogram every two years from the age of 45 to 69. This screening is effective at picking up breast cancer early, so make sure you're signed up to the scheme if you're over 45.

You may have an increased risk of breast cancer if you have:

CanRisk assessment tool

CanRisk is a new online assessment tool that can help decide which women have an increased risk of breast cancer. It takes about 10 to 30 minutes to complete the assessment with a doctor or nurse.

To use the tool, your doctor or nurse enters information about your whānau/family and your mother’s and father’s medical history. The tool then presents your risk prediction using a range of visual displays. This can help you understand how your risk compares to other women.

The tool uses New Zealand cancer incidence rates and is the best available way of calculating your risk.

When you make an appointment for a CanRisk assessment with your GP or practice nurse, they may ask you to prepare information for the appointment by completing this CanRisk questionnaire.

Women with increased risk

One in 100 women has a much higher risk of breast cancer. A further four in 100 women have an increased risk of breast cancer due to their family history.

If you're one of these women, you may qualify for at-risk breast screening.

If you're one of the one in 100 women with a much higher risk of breast cancer, you may also qualify for a genetic assessment.

Screening programmes

If you have an increased risk, you'll have a personalised programme for extra screening mammograms based on your level of risk. This programme is funded, which means you won't have to pay.

Examples of screening programmes include:

If a screening mammogram finds something that needs further investigation or treatment, your GP will arrange this.

If you don't qualify for the local at-risk breast cancer screening programme but would prefer to be screened every year, you may choose to pay for a private mammogram in the years between your two-yearly funded mammograms. Your GP can write you a private referral.


New Zealand health professionals don't recommend thermography for screening or assessing breast symptoms.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed December 2018. Last updated March 2021.


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Review key: HIBSS-29688