Reinstatement of yearly mammograms for women with a family history of breast cancer

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My mother, my only maternal aunt and my maternal grandmother were all diagnosed with breast cancer whilst in their 50s. All had mastectomies, and my mother and aunt ultimately died of the disease as the cancer spread to affect other parts of their bodies. I was deemed to be at high risk due to this family history, and I used to be eligible for free yearly mammograms.

Today I discovered that women like me, who have a significant family history of breast cancer, are no longer eligible for yearly mammograms through BreastScreen NSW, and are only eligible for screening every 2 years, as the criteria for high risk has changed, and now only applies to women whose mothers, fathers, sisters or brothers have been diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 50.

BreastScreen NSW informed that I could have a private mammogram every other year, if I chose to do so, and assuming I can afford to do so. However they were unable to tell me whether a private radiographer would be able to access the mammograms taken by BreastScreen NSW. If a private radiographer is unable or unwilling to access this information, having a private mammogram becomes useless, as the whole point of having mammograms every year is the ability for the radiologist to compare films over time in order to detect small but significant changes in breast tissue which may indicate the presence of cancer cells.

Women in rural and regional areas are further at risk, as they may be unable to easily access private mammography services.

 I am appalled at the shortsightedness of BreastScreen NSW and the NSW Ministry of Health in withdrawing yearly mammogram screening to women such as myself. I can only assume that this is a cost-cutting measure. Early detection of breast cancer is vital for women’s survival, and ultimately saves the health system money. This reduction in the availability of free mammograms in NSW ultimately puts women’s health and lives at risk.

I call upon the NSW Minister for Health, Brad Hazzard, to reinstate free yearly mammograms for women with a significant family history of breast cancer.



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