FREE: Breast cancer screens will now be available free for women aged 50–74.
FREE: Breast cancer screens will now be available free for women aged 50–74. File

Government expands National Breast Screening Program

WOMEN aged 70-74 can now take part in regular, free mammograms following the Australian Government's decision to expand the National Breast Screening Program.

Denise Powell, of the Wide Bay Breast Screen Service, said the invitation came after a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine last year.

"The new data shows that women between the ages of 70 and 74 will definitely experience a reduction of mortality rates of around the order of about 40%, which is significant," Dr Powell said.

She said there were often misconceptions about breast cancer and the way it affected women.

"People think that not having a family history of breast cancer is a sure-fire 'not get breast cancer' card but it's not," she said.

"Ageing is the most significant factor for breast cancer.

"We know that it is the most common cancer in women, a lifetime incidence of one in eight women. We also know that women are aging healthily and are living longer so this new age group being studied is quite timely."

It is estimated that by 2020 more than 17,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer every year in Australia and according to Cancer Australia chief executive officer Helen Zorbas, the earlier the detection, the better the outcome.

"In Australia, we have among the best breast cancer survival rates in the world," she said.

"The earlier the cancer is found, the better the chance of treatments being effective and improving survival from this disease," she said.

"Screening mammography is the best early detection test available to reduce deaths from breast cancer.

"Women over 69 will now be actively invited to continue their participation in the BreastScreen program.

"The program's extension will deliver up to 220,000 additional screening services over four years, which has the potential to detect an additional 600 breast cancers a year."



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