Breast Cancer

Reporter: Graeme Butler

The tiny white dot that has such giant implications - this is breast cancer and for reasons that escape medical experts like Dr Liz Wylie, from Breast screen W.A - more and more women are developing the disease.

Liz Wylie says “the rate seems to be going up about 10 percent per year”

One in eleven australian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, about 1200 a year in W.A - and mammograms are the front line defence for early detection and saving lives... so why are women being told they don't need to be checked as often as they were. Liz says “it's something that we are concerned about going out with this message don't come too often, don't come too often but make sure you do come, don't not come at all “

So how often is too often? Breast screen W.A has just modified it's advice - if you're over 40 with a signifcant family history of breast cancer you should be screened every year, other women over 40 particularly in the 50 - 69 year old age group should be screened every two years.

Liz says “the radiation risk isn't the reason we're concerned it's the possibility of false positve diagnosis, any test you have has the risk of false positive diagnosis so the more often you have the test the more often there's a chance the you'll get asked to come back to have further viewsto see if what we see on the mammogram is real or not“

Judy says “my mother had breast cancer i had a paternal great aunt who had it i myself developed it when i was 49 years and i had a mastectomy and a breast reconstruction at the same time” Judy Winstone is one of the women who is now screened every year - when her daughter Nicole turns 40 she too will be on the screening programme. “i think anybody would say that it worries you it worries me more from a point of view that i have a daughter an dthe fact that i developed it like before 50 it doesw worry me and concern that she has probably inherited the gene as well”

85 000 Western australian women are screened each year - dr wylie says many of them are just un-neccessary, though she stresses the changes will never see women turned away if they want to be screened, and is not a reason for women to delay appropriate tests.

Liz says “It's still very hard to get women to come and have a mammogram and we are mindful of saying don't come too often when we know there are a lot of women who don't come at all”

For further information:

Visit: www.breastscreen.health.wa.gov.au

Phone: Breast Screen W.A 13 20 50