A 15 minute breast cancer screen could save your life

This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Western Australian women are being reminded of the importance of being screened for breast cancer.

Breast cancer affects one in seven Australian women, with women over 50 years of age accounting for three quarters of all diagnosis.

Each year in Western Australia, about 1,300 women are diagnosed with breast cancer. No GP referral is required and breast screening only takes about 15 minutes making it easy and simple to access.

BreastScreen WA provides free screening mammograms to asymptomatic women and specifically targets women aged 50 to 74 years, however, all women 40 years or over are eligible and welcome to attend.

At the end of March, the service went into a temporary one-month suspension in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to protect clients and staff.

BreastScreen WA’s Medical Director Dr Elizabeth Wylie, said screening mammography was the most effective method for early detection of breast cancer.

“Screening every two years is vitally important to increase the chance of a breast cancer being detected when it is too small to feel or be noticed. Finding a cancer at this early stage often means that the breast cancer is small and more treatable,” she said.

“A free screening mammogram is one of the best things that women can do to look after their health. Breast screening saves lives and only takes 20 minutes.”

Screening mammograms may detect 70-90% of breast cancers and even if you receive a normal screening result, please see your family doctor as soon as possible if you develop new breast changes.

Breast changes include:

  • A lump or thickening of the breast
  • Any change in the nipple including direction or shape
  • An unusual nipple discharge
  • Any skin changes – dimpling, rashes, redness or puckering
  • New persistent breast pain

WA Primary Health Alliance plays an important role in supporting breast screening, supporting general practices to identify patients who are due for screening and encouraging women who are eligible to participate along with providing resources for practices to display.

WA Primary Health Alliance Clinician Liaison Officer Jennifer Cake said breast cancer was the most common cancer among Australian women apart from non-melanoma skin cancer.

“We have been working closely with GPs and encouraging them to be proactive and have those conversations regularly with those targeted patients,” she said.

BreastScreen WA has permanent clinics at:

  • Bunbury
  • Cannington
  • Cockburn
  • Mandurah
  • Midland
  • Mirrabooka
  • Two clinics in the City of Perth
  • Wanneroo
  • Padbury
  • Rockingham

Additionally, BreastScreen WA operates a mobile screening service through country WA.

To make your free screening mammogram appointment – book online www.breastscreen.health.wa.gov.au  or call 13 20 50.

For more information on staying breast aware visit: : https://www.cancerwa.asn.au/resources/specific-cancers/breast-cancer/#breast-awareness