Breast Cancer screening in Switzerland

31st May 2023

Posted by Dr Michelle Wright

Breast Cancer screening in Switzerland

Dr Michelle Wright explains how the process works in her fourth and final episode in her mini-series on breast cancer.

When a woman reaches 50, regardless of her residency status or her nationality, if she’s living in a canton with a breast cancer screening programme, she’ll receive a written invitation to participate. And she’ll continue to receive these invitations every 2 years until the age of 70 in some cantons, and 74 in others.  

Will the cost be reimbursed?

In terms of costs, the good news is that basic health insurance pays around 200 CHF towards the mammography examination. In some cantons, the full cost is covered.  

Having a mammogram is a fairly quick procedure – around 20 to 30 minutes in total. 

And then it takes around 8 working days for you to get your results in writing. If you provide your doctor’s name and contact details, they’ll also receive a copy.  

Advantages and disadvantages of screening

It’s important to remember that breast cancer screening is voluntary.  There are advantages and disadvantages. A woman has the right to make an informed choice to opt out of screening if she chooses. 

In terms of advantages, breast cancers found by screening are generally at an found at an early stage and so are easier to treat.  Almost all women survive for least 5 years after diagnosis and are likely to be cured.  

Over a 10-year period, taking a thousand women who are screened and a thousand women who are not screened, there will be one less breast cancer death in the screening group.  

But it’s also important to be aware of the possibility of false negative results – not all breast cancers are detected by screening.    

Also, false-positive results are possible. Additional tests are needed in 4 to 5% of mammograms because abnormalities are detected. In the majority of cases, these abnormalities turn out to be benign and not cancer. Of course this can be hugely stressful time for a woman.  


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