BreastScreen Victoria continues to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women with participation rates set to show improvement following the implementation of a considered, culturally sensitive program which aims to make the screening process easier.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull released the 2016 Closing the Gap report in Federal Parliament on Wednesday, with an increase in Indigenous cancer mortality rates and a widening gap in comparison to non-Indigenous Australians among key points raised in the annual update.
The 2016 Closing the Gap report notes that: “Between 2006 and 2013, there was a 10 per cent increase in cancer death rates for Indigenous patients and a 6 per cent decline for non-Indigenous Australians.”Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Iindigenous women in Victoria. Since 2013, BreastScreen Victoria has been working with organisations such as the Rumbalara Aboriginal Co-Operative (RAC) to improve breast screening rates. Working with key Iindigenous groups particularly the regional Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOS) has been crucial to gain an understanding of how best to engage with the communities.
Not only is breast cancer the most common cancer among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, but the mortality rate is also higher due to diagnosis at advanced stages – something BreastScreen Victoria is actively working to change.
Prime Minister Turnbull called for “hope and optimism rather than entrenched despair” in engaging with Iindigenous Australians and this is a sentiment shared by BreastScreen Victoria CEO, Vicki Pridmore.
BreastScreen Victoria participation statistics for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women remain below the state average of 54% however, the organisation remains hopeful and encouraged with the number of women using the program on the rise.
The latest data is again expected to show an increase in participation with a rate of 39% reported for the period 2012-2014.
“Our latest tracking data indicates we will see those figures increase again this year,” said Ms Pridmore. “For 2010-2012, the participation rate was just 29%, so we’ve already main made steady gains and this gives us great hope for the future.“It’s important to remember that early detection of breast cancer improves outcomes for women,” Ms Pridmore continued. “75% of all women diagnosed are over the age of 50 and one ten minute appointment every two years could save your life.”