The BreastScreen WA van is nearing the end of its 2018 Esperance stay

Esperance women are urged to get a mammogram before the BreastScreen van leaves town on April 6.

The vans were a key part in significant improvements recorded in breast cancer survival rates, according to BreastScreen WA medical director Dr Elizabeth Wylie.

Dr Wylie said women in rural areas such as Esperance were more likely to screen because they were aware the vans will leave.

“With areas like Esperance we find participation is good because women are cognizant that the van is going to be there for a finite amount of time,” she said.

“So they’re less likely to put their examination off.

“It is really important because we are there for such a finite period of time that we get the message out to women as effectively as possible.”

Dr Wylie said the service had become more accessible in recent years.

“We are now coming to Esperance annually which is fabulous,” she said.

“The van will return roughly the same time next year.”

The State government released a report on International Women’s Day, Thursday March 8, which revealed breast cancer survival rates had improved whilst new diagnosis continued to increase.

The report entitled Cancer Effect: Breast Cancer Relative Survival 1985-2014 found survival rates had increased by nearly 25 per cent in the last 25 years.. 

Between 2010 and 2014, 91.5 per cent of people with breast cancer had survived, compared with 74.4 per cent between 1985 and 1989.

Dr Wylie said the improved survival rate was ‘wonderful news’ and said the vans had ‘definitely’ been a factor.

“The published evidence is that women who screen regularly, individually reduce their chances of dying of breast cancer by 50 per cent.

“Inviting the population to screen will reduce the breast cancer mortality by 20 per cent because only about 56 per cent of the eligible population takes the opportunity to screen.

“The earlier the cancer is detected the less likely it is to spread.

“The tumours tend to be better differentiated

“Intrinsically screening will lead to the detection of less aggressive tumours.”

According to BreastScreen WA, 1500 Esperance women were screened during the van’s 2016 three month visit, 324 were screened over three weeks in 2017. 

The van arrived in Esperance on January 9, 2018 and will leave after three months.

Dr Wylie said the excellent care the van staff provide, encouraged patients to re-screen.

“We really are proud of the services we provide,” she said.

“It’s more than just the technical skills but also the actual care that the women on the van get.

”I really am very proud of the staff on the van, I believe they’re really committed to providing a great service right across the rural areas of Western Australia.

“They are very appreciative that the quality of the care and the compassion they show the women will really affect the patient’s likelihood to re-screen.”

WA Health minister Roger Cook said there were still over 12,000 new cases of cancer diagnosed in WA per year.

“While these numbers are alarming, the increase in cancer survival rates is a testament to our health services and all those staff who have worked tirelessly to improve health outcomes for cancer patients,” he said.

“Our hospitals now have some of the best technology for cancer treatment in Australia, however there is still much work to be done.”

The report found survival rates for patients diagnosed with Stage 1 at 99 per cent, however only 32 per cent of patients with Stage 4 survived.

Dr Wylie said the number of women being diagnosed with breast cancer had increased over her career.

“When I started my interest in screening in the early 1990s, the incident of breast cancer in Australia was 1 in 14 women, it’s now 1 in 8, she said.

“The disease is becoming more common but more women are surviving.

“It's an excellent outcome, but the best outcome of all would be if less women got breast cancer.”

She said the BreastScreen WA health promotion team along with women’s groups in the Esperance area had worked hard to raise awareness.

For more information on the Cancer Effect report click here.

To arrange a mammogram appointment call 13 20 50 or book online via  www.breastscreen.health.wa.gov.au.