BreastScreen Australia is the national breast cancer screening program. It aims to reduce illness and death from breast cancer through an organised approach to the early detection of breast cancer, using screening mammography to detect unsuspected breast cancer in women. Detection at an early stage provides an opportunity for early treatment, which can reduce illness and death. Women aged 40 and over are eligible for free mammograms every 2 years.

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 of BreastScreen Australia. The report presents preliminary participation data for 2013-2014 and final data for 2012-2013, as well as the latest available data on incidence and mortality.

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 from 1 July 2013. However, most data in 2012-2013 were collected when only women aged 50-69 were actively targeted, which makes it the appropriate target age group for this report.

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

Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australian women

In 2011, there were 7,499 new cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed in Australian women aged 50-69. This is equivalent to just under 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 2012, 1,126 women aged 50-69 died from breast cancer, which is equivalent to 44 deaths per 100,000 women. This 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 42 per 100,000 women in 2012 (age-standardised).

Incidence of breast cancer was lower for Indigenous women than for non-Indigenous women at 203 compared with 271 new cases per 100,000 women, but mortality from breast cancer was higher at 48 compared with 44 deaths per 100,000 women (all rates age-standardised).

More than half of targeted women participate in BreastScreen Australia

In both 2012-2013 and 2013-2014, more than 1.4 million women aged 50-69 had a screening mammogram through BreastScreen Australia, which is around 55% participation.

Participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women was lower at 36% in 2012-2013. Participation has been 54% or 55% for all years between 2010-2011 and 2013-2014.

Some women are recalled for further investigation

In 2013, 12% of women screening for the first time and 4% of women attending subsequent screens were recalled for further investigation. These rates are slightly higher than for 2012.

More than half the cancers detected by BreastScreen Australia are small

Small breast cancers (≤15 mm in diameter) tend to be associated with more treatment options and improved survival. In 2013, a high proportion of invasive breast cancers detected were small: 46% 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 2012.