‘No better time than now’ to move forward on breast cancer screening

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A new Australian Government funded report on optimising breast cancer screening should be a catalyst for embedding emerging and established technologies into the BreastScreen Australia program, leading independent cancer researchers said today.

The detailed report, Roadmap for Optimising Screening in Australia (ROSA) – investigating risk-based breast cancer screening, is the last in a series of reviews conducted by The Daffodil Centre and funded by the Australian Department of Health and Aged Care through a grant to Cancer Council Australia.

The report sets out a path to reaching the level of evidence needed to change policy and could position Australia as a global innovator in breast cancer screening through risk-adjusted approaches that complement the current aged-based program.

Professor Bruce Mann, independent co-chair of ROSA’s expert advisory group, a leading breast surgeon and Daffodil Centre research affiliate, said the new report added urgency to finding improved ways to screen for breast cancer.


“When we commenced the work, we did not know that there would be an intergovernmental review of BreastScreen overlapping with the project’s conclusion,” Professor Mann said.

“This is the first review of BreastScreen in 15 years and a timely opportunity to investigate how to incorporate modern breast cancer risk assessment and newer imaging technologies into our national breast cancer screening program.

“We were delighted when federal Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler, announced the review last October and cited the ROSA project as a catalyst. Now it is up to governments and other stakeholders to respond to the recommendations. There is no better time than now to move this forward.”

Professor Mann said Daffodil Centre research had predicted that more than 90,000 Australian women would die of breast cancer in Australia over the next 25 years, unless there were major changes in breast cancer policy and practice.

“A large majority of those deaths will be in women diagnosed at later stages. The risk of dying from breast cancer diagnosed early is very small. We can do better, by finding systematic ways to use emerging and established technologies.”

A/Professor Carolyn Nickson, breast cancer epidemiologist and ROSA’s science lead, said BreastScreen was a highly effective program, estimated to have reduced breast cancer mortality in those undergoing screening by between 41 and 52%.

“The ROSA reports are a well-defined process to make an established and successful national program even more effective, by exploring policy reforms within an evidence-based, consultative framework,” A/Professor Nickson said.

“Australia has a strong record in ensuring evidence underpins cancer screening policy. This is the approach we have taken in formulating the recommendations in the final ROSA report.

“New approaches in screening practice must be trialled and supported by data collection, economic analysis, robust governance and ongoing stakeholder consultation.”

Professor Mann said the key steps were set out in the final report, with a focus on making a good program better.

“Five-year breast cancer survival for all stages combined is 92% and is close to 100% for women diagnosed at stage one,” he said.

“Yet we will lose around 3,200 Australian women to breast cancer this year. We need to find more cases at early stage and fast-track effective technologies into standard practice.”

Source: The Daffodil Centre

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The ONA Editor curates oncology news, views and reviews from Australia and around the world for our readers. In aggregated content, original sources will be acknowledged in the article footer.

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