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Breast cancers detected through BreastScreen Australia were less likely to cause death

26 September 2018

National cancer screening programs reduce the risk of death from breast, cervical and bowel cancer

The latest report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare on cancer screening and survival has just been released. The report is a result of an Australian-first project, combining data from BreastScreen Australia, the National Cervical Screening Program, the National Bowel Screening Program, the Australian Cancer Database, the National Death Index, and the National HPV (human papillomavirus) Vaccination Program Register.

Breast cancers detected through BreastScreen Australia were less likely to cause death

This report compared survival outcomes of breast cancers detected through BreastScreen Australia with breast cancers diagnosed in women who had never screened. Of the breast cancers diagnosed in women aged 50–69 in 2002–2012:

• 31,968 were detected through BreastScreen Australia

• 20,245 were diagnosed in women who had never screened.

Women diagnosed through BreastScreen Australia had a 69% lower risk of dying from breast cancer before 31 December 2015 than those who had never screened.

The report showed that the risk of dying from breast cancer was still 42% lower for women diagnosed through BreastScreen Australia than for women who had never screened.

"For women diagnosed with breast cancer, the risk of death was 42% lower among those diagnosed through BreastScreen Australia than those who had never screened," said AIHW spokesperson Mr Justin Harvey

"About 44% of the almost 73,500 breast cancers diagnosed in 2002–2012 were diagnosed through BreastScreen Australia," Mr Harvey said

Mr Harvey noted the aim of population screening programs is to detect disease earlier and improve outcomes for individuals, thereby reducing the overall burden in the community.

The report also notes women who already participated in one screening program were also more likely to participate in other programs for which they were eligible, suggesting that if barriers to participation in one screening program can be broken, there is potential to improve participation across other programs. This can lead to more cancers detected through screening, which have a lower risk of death, as this study shows.

People with breast, cervical and bowel cancers detected through national cancer screening programs have better survival outcomes than those diagnosed but who had never been screened.

For the media release and the report please visit https://www.aihw.gov.au/news-media/media-releases/2018/september/national-cancer-screening-programs-reduce-the-risk

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