BreastScreen Australia is the national breast cancer screening program. It aims to reduce illness and death from breast cancer through an organised approach to the early detection of breast cancer, using screening mammography to detect unsuspected breast cancer in women. Early detection provides an opportunity for early treatment, which can reduce illness and death. Women aged 40 and over are eligible for free mammograms every 2 years.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting Australian women
Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australian women. In 2015, 10,400 new cases of invasive breast cancer were diagnosed in women aged 50–74, equivalent to 325 new cases per 100,000 women.
Incidence increased from around 200 new cases per 100,000 women aged 50–74 in the years before BreastScreen Australia began in 1991, to 300 cases per 100,000 in 2000. For the years 2000 to 2015, incidence remained at around 300 new cases per 100,000 women.
Breast cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related death in Australian women, behind lung cancer. In 2017, 1,404 women aged 50–74 died from breast cancer, which is equivalent to 42 deaths per 100,000 women aged 50–74.
Breast cancer mortality has decreased since BreastScreen Australia began—from 74 deaths per 100,000 women aged 50–74 in 1991 to less than 50 deaths per 100,000 since 2010.
More than half of targeted women participate in BreastScreen Australia
More than 1.8 million women aged 50–74 had a screening mammogram through BreastScreen Australia in 2016–2017. This was 55% of women in the target age group. Participation has stayed between 54% and 55% since 2010–2011.
A small proportion of women are recalled for further investigation
In 2017, 11% of women who screened for the first time, and 4% of women attending a subsequent screen, had a screening mammogram result indicating they should be recalled for further investigation. These rates are similar to those in 2016.