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Monday, 14 September 2009
Page: 9511


Ms SAFFIN (4:20 PM) —The matter of breast screening has been in the news lately with the release by the government of the final report by the Evaluation Advisory Committee of the Australian Health Ministers Advisory Council into BreastScreening Australia. This committee was chaired by the eminent Helen Zorbas. It puts forward a number of recommendations. One is contentious—not in terms of the medical evidence but because it is about access to medical assessment and medical care that can and does save lives. The recommendation says:

Women aged 40-44 years and women aged 75 years and over—

I noticed that the latter age was not so contentious in the media—

should no longer be able to attend the program.

I have read the report and, because I was for a long time involved with the North Coast BreastScreen program and was the president of it, I know a fair bit about it and why it has come about. However, we do not want to deny access to anything that can help save lives and that can make sure that women get diagnosed. Younger women do get breast cancer. We know that. Women like the late Belinda Emmett, the late Jane McGrath and now Kylie Minogue have been in the media recently, as have women not previously known: Josie Dietrich, Wendy Bryant and Therese Dunn. Therese Dunn is from Wollongbar in my seat of Page. She is 44 and, according to the Northern Star coverage of Therese’s story, she was diagnosed at 40. She had some comments to make about this. Also, in my home town, our Mayor of Lismore, Jenny Dowell, herself a cancer survivor, said:

Once women hit 40 I would be concerned that there is no free screening for them.

She said:

Resources for breast screening should increase.

I have a few figures about breast screening. Currently, 36 women in Australia are diagnosed with breast cancer every day. I have some New South Wales figures—and these are from the Cancer Institute New South Wales in 2005—which show:

Most women who develop breast cancer are aged 50 years or over. Of the 4,103 women in NSW diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003, 76.7% (3,148) were women in this age group—

generally up to 69. The figures continue:

In comparison, 17.5% (718)—

that is still quite high—

were women aged 40 to 49 years—

so some of them were in that target area—

and 5.8% (237) were women aged 39 years or younger.

It would be a real tragedy if some of them were denied access.

I would also like to raise the issue that in my area, under the North Coast Area Health Service, there is a breast screen program that operates. There has been a loss of mobile units and three breast cancer survivors have written to me asking to meet me to talk about this. (Time expired)