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. This report presents preliminary participation data for 2014–2015 and final data for 2013–2014, 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, 2013–2014 data have been reported for the target age range of 50–69, as there will be at most 18 months in which women aged 70-74 were also actively targeted.

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 2016, it is estimated that there will be 8,369 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 about 300 new cases per 100,000 women for over a decade. In 2016, it is estimated that 1,187 women aged 50–69 will die from breast cancer, which is equivalent to 40 deaths per 100,000 women. This makes breast cancer the second-most common cause of cancer-related death for Australian women, behind lung cancer.

Breast cancer mortality has decreased from 68 deaths per 100,000 women, which was the age-standardised rate in 1991 when BreastScreen Australia began.

Incidence of breast cancer is lower for Indigenous women than for non-Indigenous women at 214 compared with 278 new cases per 100,000 women aged 50–69; despite this, mortality from breast cancer is similar at 45 and 43 deaths per 100,000 women, respectively.

More than half of targeted women participate in BreastScreen Australia

In both 2013–2014 and 2014–2015, almost 1.5 million women aged 50-69 had a screening mammogram through BreastScreen Australia, which is around 54% participation.

Participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women was lower at 37% in 2013–2014. Participation has been 54% or 55% for all years between 2010–2011 and 2014–2015.

Some women are recalled for further investigation

In 2014, 12% of women screening for the first time and 4% of women attending subsequent screens were recalled for further investigation. These rates are similar to those in 2013.

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 2014, a high proportion of invasive breast cancers detected were small: 50% of invasive breast cancers detected in those attending their first screen, and 59% in those attending subsequent screens. These figures have changed only slightly from 2013.