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BreastScreen Australia yields results over free mammograms

10 June, 2008

Around 1.2 million women aged 50-69 years of age (56.2% of all women in this age group) took advantage of free mammograms in 2004-2005 through the BreastScreen Australia Program, according to the ninth national monitoring report on the Program released recently by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

In the meantime, death rates from breast cancer continued to fall, from 30 per 100,000 women in 1990 to around 23 per 100,000 in 2005.

The decline has been even greater in the Program's target age group of 50-69 years, with the death rate falling from 69 per 100,000 women in 1990 to 52 per 100,000 in 2005.

Christine Sturrock of the Institute's Health Registers and Cancer Monitoring Unit said, 'Breast cancer screening is recommended every two years for women in this age bracket and BreastScreen Australia aims to screen at least 70% of the eligible women in each 2-year period.'

The BreastScreen Australia monitoring report 2004-2005 shows that, although participation was just 56% in 2004-2005, once women commence screening, they tend to do so regularly. In 2004-2005 70% of women who were screened initially returned two years later for a second screen, and 81% of these returned for further screens.

More than half of the 3,680 invasive breast cancers detected by the Screening Program in 2005 were small diameter cancers.

There were also 925 cases detected in 2005 of the pre-invasive condition, ductal carcinoma in situ. This condition involves changes in the cells lining the breast ducts, which may then develop into invasive breast cancer if left untreated.

'Regular screening to detect breast cancers while they are small is particularly important because there is a very high chance of successful treatment when the cancer is at an early stage,' Sturrock said.

In total, 12,126 new cases of invasive breast cancer were diagnosed in Australia in 2004.

Death rates from breast cancer continue to fall, with 2,719 deaths in 2005.

The BreastScreen Australia Program is a joint initiative of the Australian, and state and territory governments.

The invasive breast cancers detected by this program account for almost one third of the total number of new cases diagnosed in Australia.

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