BreastScreen Australia aims to reduce illness and death resulting from breast cancer through organised screening to detect cases of unsuspected breast cancer in women, thus enabling early intervention. Women aged 40 and over are eligible for free 2-yearly mammograms.

This report is the latest in the BreastScreen Australia monitoring report series, which is published annually to provide regular monitoring of national participation and performance for BreastScreen Australia. The report provides data for the 2011-2012 period of participation in BreastScreen Australia, as well as the latest available data on incidence and mortality.

The following statistics refer to the latest data available for women aged 50-69*.

*As part of the 2013-14 Federal Budget, the Australian Government committed $55.7 million over 4 years to expand BreastScreen Australia's target age range from 50-69 to 50-74. This report includes data from women screened when BreastScreen Australia actively targeted women aged 50-69.

How many women were diagnosed with, or died from, breast cancer?

In 2010, there were 7,449 new cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed in Australian women aged 50-69. This is equivalent to 300 new cases per 100,000 women, and makes breast cancer the most common cancer affecting Australian women.

Incidence has remained steady at around 300 per 100,000 women for over a decade.

In 2011, a total of 1,130 women aged 50-69 died from breast cancer, equivalent to 44 deaths per 100,000 women. This is similar to the rate for 2010, and makes breast cancer the second most common cause of cancer-related death for Australian women.

Breast cancer mortality fell from 68 deaths per 100,000 women in the target age range in 1991 (when BreastScreen Australia began) to 44 per 100,000 women in 2011.

Incidence of breast cancer was lower for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women than for non-Indigenous women (221 compared with 266 new cases per 100,000 women), but mortality from breast cancer was higher (52 compared with 44 deaths per 100,000 women).

How many women participated in BreastScreen Australia?

In 2011-2012, more than 1.4 million women aged 50-69 had a screening mammogram through BreastScreen Australia, a participation rate of 55% for the target age group. This was unchanged from participation rates in 2009-2010 and 2010-2011.

Participation of Indigenous women was lower-38% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in the population participated compared with 54% of non-Indigenous women.

How many women were recalled for further investigation?

In 2012, 11% of women screening for the first time were recalled for further investigation; 3% of women attending subsequent screens were recalled. These are similar to rates for 2011.

How many women had a small breast cancer detected?

Small breast cancers (≤15 mm in diameter) are associated with better treatment options and improved survival. A high proportion of invasive breast cancers detected were small in 2012: 47% of invasive breast cancers detected in those attending their first screen, and 61% in those attending subsequent screens. These are similar to the figures for 2011.