AIHW Report – Breast cancer in young women
The Australian Institute for Health and Welfare (AIHW) have today released a national report presenting key data specific to breast cancer in women in their 20s and 30s. The report provides an overview of breast cancer, risk factors for young women, breast cancer detection and diagnosis methods, and key summary measures including incidence, hospitalisations, survival and mortality.
The BreastScreen Victoria program is based on current evidence and women aged 50-74 are targeted because the risk of breast cancer has been found to increase with age, and screening mammography is known to be effective in reducing breast cancer deaths in this age group.
Screening mammography is less accurate in women under 40 years of age. Breast tissue in younger women is denser than in older women. Breast cancer is more difficult to detect in younger women using mammography because both breast cancers and dense breast tissue show up as white areas on mammograms. Given its reduced effectiveness in women under 40, the harms of mammography in this age group (e.g. undergoing unnecessary procedures, discomfort during screening, exposure to low-dose radiation) are currently assessed as outweighing the benefits.
The Standing Committee on Screening (SCoS) is responsible for providing advice on existing national population based screening programs in Australia. As part of its role, the SCoS actively monitors emerging cancer screening evidence, including evidence on the appropriate age range for screening women in the BreastScreen Australia program.
BreastScreen Victoria promotes the importance for any woman of any age to be breast aware, by becoming familiar with the normal look and feel of their breasts and reporting any unusual breast changes to their doctor as soon as possible.
Some women may need different care and services that are not part of screening. This includes women who have symptoms of breast cancer, a strong family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer; and a previous diagnosis of breast cancer within the last five years.