Half of women in target age group receive breast screen

Over 1.6 million Australian women took part in free breast cancer screening as part of BreastScreen Australia in 2008 and 2009, with over 1.3 million aged 50–69, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, BreastScreen Australia monitoring report 2008–2009, shows that 55% of women targeted by the program—those aged 50 to 69, had a screening mammogram.

‘Women aged 50-69 are targeted because this group has a relatively high number of cases of breast cancer, and screening mammography is known to be effective in reducing deaths in this age group ’ said AIHW spokesperson, Chris Sturrock.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting Australian women (excluding basal and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin), and the second most common cause of cancer mortality in Australian women behind lung cancer.

In 2007, there were 6,297 new cases of breast cancer and 1,085 deaths—equivalent to 274 new cases and 47 deaths per 100,000 women.

‘BreastScreen Australia's aim is to reduce illness and deaths from breast cancer through organised screening to detect cases of unsuspected breast cancer, which enables early intervention’ Ms Sturrock said.

The good news is that nearly two-thirds of breast cancers detected by BreastScreen Australia are small.

‘Small breast cancers are associated with better treatment options and improved survival,’ Ms Sturrock said.

In line with BreastScreen Australia’s aim to reduce death resulting from breast cancer, since the program was introduced in 1991, breast cancer deaths have decreased from 68 to 47 deaths per 100,000 women, for women aged 50–69.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 6 December 2011

Further information: Ms Chris Sturrock, AIHW, ph. mob. 0407 915 851

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer 02 6244 1032