Breast cancer screening report shows steady participation

Morgan Liotta

8/10/2019 4:03:51 PM

The latest monitoring report confirms just over half of Australian women aged 50–74 continue to participate in screening programs.

Doctor checking breast X-ray
More than half of the target group of women aged 50–74 participated in the BreastScreen Australia program in 2016–2017.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australian women. For these women, the overall five-year survival rate is 90% and, if the cancer is limited to the breast, 96% will be alive five years after diagnosis – with the exception of those who die from other diseases.
National population-based cancer screening programs have proven to be effective in increasing survival rates, using approaches to early detection and treatment.
Since BreastScreen Australia began in 1991, breast cancer mortality has decreased from 74 deaths per 100,000 women aged 50–74, to 41 per 100,000 women in 2017.
Prior to 1991, breast cancer incidence increased from around 200 new cases per 100,000 women in the same age cohort to 300 cases per 100,000 in 2000. Incidence remained at around 300 new cases per 100,000 women from 2000–15.
The latest in a series of monitoring reports, released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), shows that out of the targeted age group of 50–74, 55% of women participated in the BreastScreen Australia program in 2016–2017. This equates to more than 1.8 million screening mammograms, and participation has remained between 54–55% since 2010–11.
More than half (59%) of breast cancers detected in 2017 were classified by BreastScreen Australia as ‘small’ (<15 mm) and associated with more treatment options, lower morbidity and improved survival rates. The mortality rate from breast cancer during this year was 42 deaths per 100,000 women aged 50–74.
Breast cancers were also small for women attending their first screening (48%) and for women attending a subsequent screening (61%). In comparison, the AIHW reports that 28% of breast cancers detected outside BreastScreen Australia are small.
Rates of women who had a screening mammogram result indicating recall for further investigation were 11% for those screened for the first time and 4% for those attending a subsequent screen.
For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women aged 50–74, participation in BreastScreen Australia in 2016–2017 was 41%.
Incidence of breast cancer was higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, at 308 new cases per 100,000, compared with non-Indigenous women, at 293. Mortality from breast cancer was also higher, at 52 deaths per 100,000 women aged 50–74, compared with non-Indigenous women, at 43 deaths per 100,000.
The AIHW identifies age as the greatest risk factor for breast cancer, with most breast cancers occurring in women over the age of 50.
High attendance for screening by women in the target age group (50–74) maximises reductions in morbidity and mortality from breast cancer, the AIHW stated.
The RACGP’s National guide to a preventive health assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people includes a chapter on prevention and early detection of breast cancer.
The Guidelines for preventive activities in general practice (Red Book) and Guidelines for the implementation of prevention in the general practice setting (Green Book) also include recommendations on screening activities and treatment options for breast cancer.

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