Notes on the data: Screening programs - Breast screening

Breast screening outcomes - cancer, females aged 50 to 69 years, 2015 and 2016 (NSW, & SA), 2016 and 2017 (Vic)


Policy context:  The data presented here are for women screened for breast cancer as a result of screening programs [1].

Breast cancer is a major health issue for Australian women. Currently, few scientifically proven strategies are available for preventing the development of breast cancer. However, research has shown that screening mammography is currently the most effective tool for the early detection of breast cancer in asymptomatic women in the target age group of women aged 50 to 69 years; and, that having a screening mammogram every two years, reduces the chance of dying from breast cancer by up to 40%. Participation in breast screening in South Australia is associated with a reduction in breast cancer mortality of between 30% and 41% [2].

BreastScreen Australia is the national breast cancer screening program with services provided by state-based organisations - in this case by BreastScreen New South Wales, BreastScreen Victoria, BreastScreen Queensland, BreastScreen Western Australia and BreastScreen ACT. The program provides screening and assessment services on a state-wide basis at no cost to eligible women, using fixed and mobile clinics. The target age group is asymptomatic women aged 50 to 69 years; asymptomatic women aged 40 to 49 and 75 years and older are also able to attend [3]. Women who are eligible because of a strong family history of breast cancer are invited annually.

Screening mammograms are different from diagnostic mammograms, which are not provided by BreastScreen Australia. Diagnostic mammograms are for women who have breast symptoms and include views that target the symptomatic area. Screening mammograms are not suitable for women with breast symptoms.

Notes/ References

  1. The data do not include women who undergo private screening; the impact of such services is estimated to be quite small – see: Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA). BreastScreen Australia evaluation: Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Mammography Analysis Project. (Screening monograph no. 11/2009.) Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2009.
  2. Roder D, Houssami N, Farshid G, Gill G, Luke C, Downey P, Beckmann K, Iosifidis P, Grieve L, Williamson L. Population screening and intensity of screening are associated with reduced breast cancer mortality: evidence of efficacy of mammography screening in Australia. Breast Cancer Res Tr. 2008;108(3):409-16.
  3. Australian Government Department of Health. BreastScreen Australia program: About the program [Internet]. [cited 2014 May 22, updated 2016 Mar 15]. Available from: http:

Notes:  The breast screening outcomes for the 24 month period to the end of each calendar year are based on the actual number of women with cancer outcomes as an age-standardised rate of the actual number of women screened for the two corresponding calendar years. If a woman has attended more than once in the 24 months, they are counted once only, and the age is taken from the first visit.

Breast cancers include both invasive and ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).

The indirectly age-standardised rate per 10,000 women screened is based on the standard population of each respective jurisdiction.

The data do not include women who undergo private screening; the extent to which women use such alternatives is estimated to be quite small (see above).

Data not yet available for Victoria. Data are not available for Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory or the Australian Capital Territory. Archived data from 2010 and 2011 are available for Queensland and Western Australia, and from 2007 and 2008 for the Australian Capital Territory at /social-health-atlases/data-archive(May and June 2015 release.)

As these data were collected from each State and Territory health agency, they may exclude people who live in one State/Territory and used a service in another. The main occurrences are for people living near State/Territory borders such as in Albury (NSW) and Wodonga (Vic) and Tweed (NSW) and Gold Coast (Qld).


Geography: Data available by Population Health Area, Local Government Area, Primary Health Network, Quintile of socioeconomic disadvantage of area and Remoteness Area


Numerator:  Number of individual women aged 50 to 69 years diagnosed with screen-detected breast cancers over a 24 month period ending 31 December 2016 (NSW, & SA) and ending 31 December 2017 (Vic)


Denominator:  Women aged 50 to 69 years screened over a 24 month period ending 31 December 2016 (NSW, & SA) and ending 31 December 2017 (Vic)


Detail of analysis:  Indirectly age-standardised rate per 10,000 women screened, based on the standard population of each respective jurisdiction


Source:  Compiled by PHIDU based on data from BreastScreen NSW, and BreastScreen SA - 2015 and 2016, and BreastScreen Victoria - 2016 and 2017.


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