ACT women not taking advantage of free breast screening: report

A new report shows almost half of ACT women who are in the target age range for free breast screening are avoiding or delaying appointments.

The report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) studied how many women aged between 50 and 69 used free services offered by Breast Screen Australia between 2010-2011.

AIHW spokesman Justin Harvey says in the ACT, 52 per cent of those women had regular breast screening.

“The 48 per cent of women who didn’t participate in that two year period were either not participating in the program at all, or not participating as often as was recommended which is once every two years,” he said.

“[But] the number of women participating in the ACT has increased between 2008-2009 and 2010-2011 from 20,000 women to 20,340 women.”

Nationally more than 1.3 million women aged between 50 to 69 were screened through the program between 2010-2011.

Of those women, 55 per cent had a mammogram in 2010-2011, with the remaining 45 per cent not participating or delaying appointments.

Participation in screening was also lower for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, and those who do not speak English at home or live in very remote areas.

Nationally, the incidence of breast cancer has remained steady since 2003, with about 290 cases per 100,000 women.

But Mr Harvey says the mortality rate continues to fall due to preventative screening and improved treatment options.

“In the 10 years from 1996 to 2006 and from 2006 to 2010, mortality rates from breast cancer in the ACT decreased from 67 per 100,000 women to 46 per 100,000 women,” he said.

Mr Harvey says the ACT also has a higher incidence rate of breast cancer than the national average.

“In 2004 to 2008, of women aged 50 to 69 years old, 550 were diagnosed with breast cancer during that period,” he said.

“In terms of rates that was about 320 per 100,000 women in the ACT.”

But Mr Harvey says those figures reinforce the need for women in the target age group to use the free screening services.

“It’s really important for women to participate in this freely provided program, because detecting cancers early is critical in terms of improving the outcome in relation to treatment and survival,” he said.

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