Early detection breast screening finds smaller, more treatable cancers

The BreastScreen Australia Program has been increasingly successful in detecting breast cancer over the last ten years, according to the eighth national monitoring report for the BreastScreen Australia Program, launched today by the Hon Tony Abbott, Minister for Health and Ageing at the Police & Community Youth Club (PCYC) in Coffs Harbour.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report, BreastScreen Australia 2003-04, shows that earlier detection is contributing to both a rise in the rate of breast cancers being diagnosed, and to a subsequent decrease in deaths.

Mr John Harding, Head of the Health Registers and Cancer Monitoring Unit, said there were 11,788 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed in 2003 and 2,641 deaths in 2004.

'The death rate has fallen from 30 per 100,000 women of all ages in 1990 to 23 per 100,000 in 2004. And the decline has been even greater in the target age group of 50-69 years, with the death rate falling from 69 per 100,000 women in 1990 to 51 per 100,000 in 2004,' he said.

In 2003-2004, just over 1.1 million women aged 50-69 years were screened - a participation rate of 55.6%. This is up from 51.4% in 1996- 1997, but down from 2002-2003 when 56.1% of women in the target age group participated in the BreastScreen Program.

In 2004 there were 3,851 invasive breast cancers and 917 cases of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) detected by mammography screening.

'DCIS is a disease that involves changes in the cells lining the breast ducts. It is a strong indicator of increased risk of developing an invasive breast cancer, so early detection is key,' Mr Harding said.

Of women being screened for the first time, almost 10% are recalled for a follow up assessment, mainly because of possible signs of cancer in the mammogram.

More than half (56%) of cancers detected in women being screened for the first time were small diameter cancers, while 65% of cancers detected in women being re-screened were small.

'The message is clear; when women attend BreastScreen Australia for early detection screening, any cancers found are more likely to be smaller and more treatable,' Mr Harding said.

The BreastScreen Australia Program is a joint Australian, state and territory governments initiative aimed at detecting breast cancer in women.

18 April 2007

Further information: Mr John Harding, AIHW, tel. 61 2 6244 1140, mob 0407 915 851.

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 61 2 6244 1032.