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BCNA News 16 Aug 2021

Breast cancer won't pause for COVID - screening is essential

The temporary closure of BreastScreen services across NSW is NOT an excuse to ignore symptoms warns Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA).

Screening services in a number of LGA’s are on hold across the state due to COVID implications but it’s important that anyone with signs or symptoms know that they still have access to diagnostic services and should not hesitate to contact their GP.

In 2020, an analysis of cancer notifications in Victoria found a 10% reduction of cancer diagnoses due to the impact of the COVID-19 restrictions, which included a temporary closure of BreastScreen Victoria services. BCNA is concerned that a similar decline in diagnoses is likely to be seen across NSW due to the stay-at-home orders, temporary closures of some NSW screening services, and community hesitancy to respond to symptoms of concern.

Professor Bruce Mann, Surgeon and BCNA Board Member said seeing a healthcare
professional for any concerns people may have about changes to their breasts is critical.

“When a person finds a lump or sees changes in their breast, assessments and tests are key to finding out whether it’s benign or whether it’s a tumour that could be aggressive and quickly become harder to treat. These assessments need to be done urgently to give women, and men, the best chance of recovery,” says Professor Mann.

Breast Cancer Network Australia’s Director of Policy and Advocacy, Vicki Durston says a focus must remain on early detection of breast cancer and that every effort should be made to ensure people with symptoms of concern can access the services and care that they need.

“We acknowledge that every effort needs to be made to keep communities safe but breast cancer won’t wait for COVID, closing routine screening programs will delay early detection, diagnosis and potentially lifesaving treatment. The Victorian system is still dealing with the impact of last year’s closures and the rebounding of later stage breast cancer presentations. BCNA is calling for a national roadmap to address the impact of COVID on these and related services.”

It is important that everyone attend follow up appointments and all women impacted by the BreastScreen service closures to feel reassured that as soon as services can reopen that their screening will commence.

If you have any concerns, you can call BCNA Helpline on 1800 500 258.

For BCNA media enquiries please contact: Kellie Curtain | 0412 339 690 | kcurtain@bcna.org.au