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Delayed breast cancer testing could cost ‘hundreds of lives’

The government is expanding subsidies for Verzenio for women living with early stage breast cancer.

The government is expanding subsidies for Verzenio for women living with early stage breast cancer. Photo: AAP

Delays in diagnosis and treatment of Australia’s most common cancer will have lasting consequences beyond the coronavirus pandemic, the National Breast Cancer Foundation warns.

The foundation has marked the start of Breast Cancer Awareness Month by warning of an expected surge in later-stage breast cancer diagnoses in years to come, noting surgical delays of as little as 12 weeks can result in 500 more breast cancer deaths a year.

It estimates there could be between 1300 and 2600 missed or undiagnosed breast cancer cases based on Cancer Australia data released this week.

The number of rescheduled appointments and the closure of BreastScreen across some states meant screening fell by roughly 98 per cent in 2020.

Meanwhile, diagnostic and investigative surgeries dropped by up to a third in the first wave of COVID-19.

Foundation chief executive Sarah Hosking said there should be investment in researching the significant impact of COVID-19 and delays in detection.

“With the expected increase in hard-to-treat breast cancer diagnoses in years to come, the time is now to re-focus on accomplishing zero breast cancer deaths and the additional funding required to reach that goal,” Professor Hosking said.

“Breast cancer will not wait for COVID-19 to end.”

-AAP

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