Women over 50 urged to be vigilant

Health authorities are urging women aged 50 – 74 years in the Western NSW Local Health District to be vigilant with their regular mammograms, with latest figures revealing that 17,600 local women have not participated in the national breast cancer screening program in the last two years.

Breast cancer remains the most common cancer among women in NSW, with one in eight being diagnosed in their lifetime. In the Western NSW Local Health District, around 200 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year and around 40 women die of the disease.

The state’s Chief Cancer Officer and CEO of the Cancer Institute NSW, Professor David Currow explained that breast cancer does not need to be a death sentence.

“We know that detecting breast cancer early means women have better treatment options, and ultimately a better outcome,” he said. “The best way for women aged 50-74 to detect cancer early is to have a mammogram every two years.”

In spite of this, only 55.8 per cent of eligible women in Western NSW Local Health District have had their mammogram in the last two years.

Meg O'Brien, Director of BreastScreen's Greater Western service says, “There are many reasons why women may put off their mammogram. Some feel that without a family history they are not at risk, some say they are too busy and others fear embarrassment.”

“We need women to know that breast cancer can happen to anyone. In fact, nine out of ten women who develop breast cancer have no family history. A mammogram with BreastScreen NSW is free, takes 20 minutes and is performed by highly trained female-only staff. Most importantly, it could save your life.”

Western NSW Local Health District, in collaboration with Bila Muuji Aboriginal Health Services, is currently running a pilot program tailored towards increasing the screening activity and participation rates of Aboriginal women.

“Our community led Yarning Circles discuss the importance of mammograms and also address fears and barriers to screening. Once each session is finished we hope that people will be less fearful of getting screened and we will provide them with the opportunity to get screened right then and there,” said Kay Smith, Health Promotions Officer, Western NSW Local Health District.

“We consistently consult and engage with local Aboriginal health workers and communities to ensure our program is culturally appropriate.”

Yarning Circles will be held in Mudgee on December 5.

Woman can book a mammogram today with BreastScreen NSW by calling 13 20 50, or can book online or search for their nearest BreastScreen NSW service by visiting breastscreen.nsw.gov.au