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Breast cancer screening helps reduce mortality


Sydney : Breast cancer mortalities continue to fall, down from 30 per 100,000 women in 1990 to 23 per 100,000 in 2005, according to an Australian study.

The decline has been even greater in the targeted age group of 50-69 years. The death rate has fallen from 69 per 100,000 women to 52 per 100,000 during the corresponding period.

Christine Sturrock of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) said “breast cancer screening is recommended every two years for women in this age bracket and BreastScreen Australia aims to screen at least 70 percent of the eligible women in each two-year period.”

The BreastScreen Australia monitoring report 2004-2005 shows that although participation was just 56 percent in 2004-2005, once women commence screening, they tend to do so regularly.

In 2004-2005, 70 percent of women who were screened initially returned two years later for a second screen, and 81 percent of these returned for further screens.

More than half of the 3,680 invasive breast cancers detected by the screening programme in 2005 were smaller cancers.

There were also 925 cases detected in 2005 of the pre-invasive condition, ductal carcinoma in situ. This condition involves changes in the cells lining the breast ducts, which may then develop into invasive breast cancer if left untreated.

Around 1.2 million women aged 50-69 years of age (56.2 per cent of all women in this age group) took advantage of free mammograms in 2004-2005 through the BreastScreen Australia programme, according to the ninth national monitoring report released Monday by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The invasive breast cancers detected by this programme account for almost one third of the total number of new cases diagnosed in Australia.