Early detection of breast cancer aims to reduce mortality and other serious consequences of advanced disease. Following early detection, timely treatment of breast cancer is more likely to result in improvements in local disease control, quality of life and life expectancy. The BreastScreen Australia (BSA) program aims to improve early detection rates by implementing a systematic approach to mammography screening for women in Australia.
The BSA national program was established in 1991 and is jointly funded by the Australian and local state and territory governments. It is operationalised by the Program Management Group (PMG), which delivers local BSA services at a state and territory level. National Quality Management Committee (NQMC) accreditation of local BSA services ensures that all women entering the program receive the highest possible quality of care.
AHA is engaged by the Department of Health to provide ongoing secretariat services to the BSA program. Our role includes administrative and secretariat support for the PMG and the clinical advisory group and working subgroups formed as part of the program. As a trusted partner of the BSA program, the success of AHA’s secretariat role is built on our team’s strong experience in public health, including screening program delivery, as well as our eye for detail, organisational skills and ability to flex to meet our program clients’ needs at short notice.
All women in Australia aged 50 to 74 years are actively invited by their local BS service to have a free mammogram every two years, with those aged 40 to 49 years and those aged over 74 years also eligible to receive a free mammogram. The success of the BSA program is evidenced by the substantial drop in breast cancer mortality rates observed over time: 74 deaths per 100,000 women now down to fewer than 50 (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2019).
The PMG is pivotal to the success of the BSA program, by ensuring the effective implementation of the program in line with local government and health service requirements. The PMG also has responsibility for identifying issues at a local and national program level and providing recommendations to the Australian government. The PMG is guided and driven by an expert clinical advisory group on evidence-based best practice, potential risks and emerging technologies. For example, it is anticipated that Artificial Intelligence (AI) may have an important role to play in the program’s future, as a means to further enhance the accuracy of radiology review of breast screening images.
The BSA program seeks to improve the early detection rates of breast cancer by delivering a systematic approach to free mammography screening across Australia. Since its inception in 1991, mortality rates have decreased from 74 deaths per 100,000 women to fewer than 50 (AIHW 2019)