Queensland Health is urging women aged 50–74 to have a breast check, after new data revealed participation rates were dropping.
Kaye Pulsford, Executive Director of Preventive Health, said the latest AIHW report found more than 1.8 million women participated in the BreastScreen Australia program.
Yet in 2016-17 the Queensland participation rate declined from 56 per cent to 55.1 per cent.
“We know life gets in the way and often women feel they are too busy but the downward trend in breast cancer screening is concerning,” Ms Pulsford said.
“Having regular mammograms needs to be a priority for all women over the age of 50 as early detection provides an opportunity for early treatment, which can reduce illness.”
Janine Soetens had her sixth mammogram in April and the screen picked up an irregularity.
“I am a physiotherapist myself and see lots of x-rays and I have to say that it was a tiny speck,” Ms Soetens said.
“My doctor commented that the radiologist did a great job at picking up the calcium deposits and that it was a very early diagnosis.”
Ms Soetens said it wasn’t the first time she had been recalled after a mammogram picked up an irregularity.
“Except this time they had to do needle biopsies (10 needles) as well as extra mammograms and an ultrasound,” Ms Soetens said.
“During the needle biopsies, the nurses and doctors were incredibly kind. They really made me feel comfortable, as much as you can be, and at ease.
“When the doctor and the nurse gave me the results they we very kind and caring.”
Ms Pulsford said regular breast screens were crucial to detect early signs before they were seen or even felt.
“Having a breast screen can’t stop a woman from developing breast cancer but can dramatically reduce the chance of the disease growing silently without detection and without treatment,” she said.
“I’m urging Queensland women over 50 who have not had a screen in the last two years, to pick up the phone or go online and make a potentially life-saving appointment.
“It’s quick – you will be in and out in around 30 minutes and there are more than 260 BreastScreen locations across Queensland.”
Ms Pulsford said being breast aware was also critical for all women of all ages.
“Know the normal look and feel of your breasts, and check breasts regularly,” she said.
“If you have any changes, find a lump, or notice nipple discharge contact your local doctor without delay.”
Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women, and the second highest cause of cancer-related deaths in Queensland women.