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Cancer screening saving lives

A record number of cancer screenings in recent months means more Tasmanian women will survive breast and cervical cancer.

Awareness campaigns in May and June have prompted an increase in breast screening alone of nearly 700 women in July and August.

This increase in screening is significant because early detection improves survival rates.

August was a record for the BreastScreen program, which began in 1993, with 2928 women screening for breast cancer. There was also an increase in the number of women visiting their GPs for cervical cancer tests.

Screening and early detection increases survival rates because early stage cancers can be treated more successfully. This is especially so with cervical cancer, where Pap smears can detect early abnormal cell changes that with treatment can prevent the disease.

This is borne out by a new report on cancer prevalence and survival in Australia released on 20 September 2012.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's Cancer Survival and Prevalence in Australia: period estimates from 1982-2010 found breast cancer, prostate cancer, bowel cancer and melanoma of the skin are the four most common cancers.

The report shows the likelihood of Tasmanians surviving three of the four most commonly diagnosed cancers - prostate cancer, breast cancer and melanoma of the skin - for at least five years after diagnosis is 90 per cent or higher.

This is a little better than the national average for these cancers.

The five-year survival rate for bowel cancer in Tasmania is 61.6 per cent compared with 66 per cent nationally. Early detection of bowel cancer is strongly linked to survival rates.

BreastScreen's Facts of Life campaign has resulted in hundreds of Tasmanian women participating in screening for the first time.

The campaign reminds women that:

  • the risk of breast cancer increases over the age of 50
  • nine out of 10 women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease
  • regular screening enables breast cancer to be detected early - long before it can be felt
  • women should phone 13 20 50 to book their free screening mammogram.

20 September 2012