Latest report shows continued positive results for Australian breast screening program

Amanda Lyons

3/10/2018 12:51:33 PM

The AIHW’s update on BreastScreen Australia has delivered positive news, showing participation rates of more than 50% and a significant decline in morbidity and mortality.

The AIHW found the risk of death was 42% lower among women diagnosed through BreastScreen Australia than those who had never been screened.
The AIHW found the risk of death was 42% lower among women diagnosed through BreastScreen Australia than those who had never been screened.

This year’s Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s (AIHW) BreastScreen Australia monitoring report, released during Breast Cancer Awareness month, shows continued positive results from the screening program, which has helped diagnose a significant proportion of cases.
‘About 44% of the almost 73,500 breast cancers diagnosed in 2002–12 were diagnosed through BreastScreen Australia,’ AIHW spokesperson Justin Harvey said.
Breast cancer remains the most common cancer diagnosed in Australian women, at a rate of 326 cases per 100,000 women. It is also the second most common cause of cancer-related death in Australian women.
However, mortality as a result of breast cancer has significantly decreased from 74 deaths per 100,000 women aged 50–74 when BreastScreen Australia began in 1991, to a rate of fewer than 50 since 2010.
More than half of women (55%) who are targeted by BreastScreen Australia take part in the program, which put its participation rates on a par with the cervical screening program and ahead of colorectal screening.
Only a small proportion of program participants are recalled for further investigation due to their screening results; in 2016, this equalled 12% of women screening for the first time and 4% of women attending subsequent screens.
More than half of breast cancers detected by screening were small, at fewer than 15 mm in diameter, meaning women usually have the possibility of accessing a wider range of treatment options and have greater chances of survival. This early detection contributes to the AIHW’s finding that those whose breast cancer was detected through national screening programs often have better outcomes.
‘The risk of death was 42% lower among [women] diagnosed through BreastScreen Australia than those who had never been screened,’ Mr Harvey said.
However, the report also identified some areas for improvement, especially among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, who have a participation rate of 39% compared to 54% for non-Indigenous Australian women.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women subsequently experience higher mortality rates from breast cancer, despite having lower incidence of the disease, and are considered an important population to target for increased screening.

Breast Cancer Awareness month BreastScreen Australia cancer screening program

newsGP weekly poll Should the RACGP continue with Convocation?


Login to comment

Emma   4/10/2018 8:52:50 AM

Screening mammograms via BreastScreen (BSCN) use 2D technology. BSCN (except in WA) does not inform women if their breasts are dense. Higher breast density is a risk factor for developing breast cancer and can impede/delay detection in 2D mammograms. Women who have regularly been screened via BSCN, and have dense breasts, have received delayed diagnoses of breast cancer because of these factors.

As a matter of national policy, BSCN should be required to inform all women of their breast density with recommendations for 3D mammogram and US for those with dense breasts. It is reprehensible and unethical (and should be illegal) for a health service provider to conceal/withhold vital information from a client/patient.

Jane   23/10/2018 9:39:40 PM

Emma, where is the evidence that 3D mammograms and ultrasound improve cancer detection and survival for women with dense breasts?

Emma   28/04/2019 8:53:42 PM

Jane, please undertake research on this issue via the medium called 'the internet'.

BreastScreen WA is required by law to inform women if their breast density is impeding the reading of their screening mammogram and to consider further tests including 3D mammograms and ultrasound. WA has the highest breast cancer survival rates in Australia.

About 40 of the 50 states in America have legislated the same requirement of mammogram providers. Their FDA has recently confirmed that may mandate this requirement nationally with no exceptions, that all women must be informed of their breast density and any implications.