6 in 10 Australian women undergo cancer screening

Almost 6 in 10 women in the target age groups for breast or cervical screening participated in these programs in 2011 or 2012, according to new information released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

It shows that nearly 6 in 10 women aged 50 to 69-or 55% of the target age group-had a mammogram through BreastScreen Australia in 2011 or 2012. That is just over 1.4 million women and similar to the rate in previous years.

BreastScreen Australia aims to reduce illness and death resulting from breast cancer by screening to detect cases of unsuspected breast cancer in women, enabling intervention at an early stage. Finding breast cancer early can mean that the cancer is small, which is associated with increased treatment options and improved survival.

'Of concern is that participation in breast screening continues to be lower among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women-at just under 38% of the target age group,' Mr Harvey said.

In terms of remoteness areas, participation was highest in Outer regional areas at 59% and the program reached 46% of women in very remote areas.

Participation was similar for women living in areas of varying socioeconomic status, ranging from about 53% to 56%, with participation slightly lower for women residing in areas of lowest socioeconomic status, but very similar across other socioeconomic groups.

The web update also includes the latest participation data for the National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP), which aims to reduce cervical cancer cases as well as illness and death resulting from cervical cancer in Australia.

It shows rates of women who were screened as part of the NCSP were similar to the rates for breast cancer screening as well as cervical screening rates in previous years.

Almost 58% of women had at least one Pap test in 2011 or 2012.

'Of all the participation factors we analysed, socioeconomic status appeared to affect cervical screening the most in 2011 and 2012,' Mr Harvey said.

'Women living in areas of higher socioeconomic status were more likely to screen (64%) and those living in areas of lower socioeconomic status were less likely to screen (52%).

Participation in cervical screening also differed by remoteness area-with higher rates in Major cities, and Inner regional areas (about 58% in both) and lowest in Very remote areas (54%).

'Today's web update provides researchers and policy makers with access to the latest national participation data 3 months earlier for cervical screening and 8 months earlier for breast cancer screening,' said AIHW spokesperson Justin Harvey.

More detailed information on the two screening programs is due out later in the year.

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, 27 February 2014

Further information: Justin Harvey, AIHW, tel. (02) 6249 5057, mob. 0450 677 562