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Increasing Breast Cancer Screening Rates

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and a reminder that primary healthcare practitioners play an important role in providing support and encouragement to women to attend, and continue to participate in breast screening.

Regular two-yearly mammograms for all woman over 40 years remains the clinically recommended method of detecting breast cancer early. Research undertaken by BreastScreen NSW has shown that GPs have a significant influence in a woman’s decision to screen, with women more likely to have a mammogram if advised to do so by their GP.

Last financial year, in partnership with the NSW Cancer Institute, our Cancer Screening Quality Improvement in General Practice Program worked with 18 practices to implement sustainable systems to improve their patients’ breast, bowel and cervical cancer screening rates.

Our Support Officers assisted practices with quality improvement activities through clinical audits, in-house training and additional support visits - tailored to the needs of each participating practice. This included training opportunities such as webinars and workshops to update practice staff on National Cancer Screening Program changes.

Through this Program, participating practices saw an increase in mammogram results recorded for women aged 50-74 years, from 4% at baseline, to 24% at the conclusion of the 15-month initiative. Having a planned and systematic team-based approach to reinforcing cancer screening, including providing patient reminders, are some of the ways these practices achieved this positive outcome.

This October, I encourage all practices in our region to consider how they can actively improve their patients’ screenings rates, with the knowledge that this will save more lives. Lives like Gabrielle Moran, a Blue Mountains resident and breast cancer survivor, who shares her story with us.

Ms Moran is passionate about raising awareness of the need for breast screening, and her story emphasises how regular self-examination and speaking to your GP can be life-saving. Please take a moment to hear her story.

BreastScreen is free for all women aged 40 years and over, but is especially important for woman aged 50-74 years as the majority of breast cancers occur in this age group. Women can make an appointment by calling 13 20 50.

Resources from BreastScreen NSW:

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Lizz Reay's avatar
Lizz Reay is the CEO of Wentworth Healthcare, provider of the Nepean Blue Mountains Primary Health Network. Previously Deputy CEO of Nepean Blue Mountains Medicare Local & Nepean Division of General Practice, she has an extensive background in public health.
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