“I was a healthy 50-year old who regularly self-examined and had no cause for concern. I had even had a mammogram in my mid-40s, and that had been fine, so nothing to fear. A few days after my mammogram, I received a letter in the post from BreastScreen NSW inviting me back to have a few more tests to complete my screening. Whilst the letter told me that one woman in twenty is invited back, and that 90% of them are fine, I still felt a little anxious. Without delay, I organised the follow-up appointment, and was back at BreastScreen NSW just a week later,” Regina Marchant - Found out she had breast cancer at 50.

Statistics released from the Cancer Institute NSW suggest there is a higher correlation between breast cancer and mortality in the female populous when compared to the rest of NSW. In Northern Sydney, Breast cancer typically occurs in 72.8 people per 100,000, compared to 62.4 per 100,000 for all of NSW. The mortality rate for this same population is 12.8 per 100,000 compared to 11.4 per 100,00 for the rest of NSW. These statistics are clearly a point of concern for Northern Sydney-siders. These stats are a clear call for action from women living in the area to screen early.

“Many people think that a family history of breast cancer puts you at the greatest risk of developing this type of cancer, but age and being female are actually the two biggest risk factors. Research tells us that 9 out of 10 women who develop breast cancer do not have a family history of breast cancer. Therefore, women aged 50-74 years, should have regular screening mammograms every 2 years regardless of family history,”

says Director of BreastScreen NSW in Northern Sydney and Central Coast, Meredith Kay.

“The new screening is now only every 5 years for women aged between 25-74 and is so sensitive and accurate that it picks up HPV as early as possible and, if you are negative, means you don’t have to go back for a cervical screen for another 5 years.” Adds Medical Director, Professor Annabelle Farnsworth – Director of Cervical Screening at Douglass Hanly Moir Pathology.

The Sydney North Primary Health Network (SNPHN) are offering GP’s access to data extraction tools to assist with their understanding of the network of patients they are tending to and allows them to implement better strategies to assist these patients and to better understand these health concerns. This data is subsequently de-identified and shared amongst the SNPHN team, allowing them to further analyse it. This crucial data helps to encourage improvements to processes and practices regarding cancer screening and treatment, allowing these patient groups to be more proactive in their health management, including lifting fees associated with screening.

“Yes, having cancer was upsetting and hard for me and my beautiful family, but because the cancer was detected early through screening I was able to have a mastectomy and the treatment necessary to beat cancer and continue to be a mother, wife and now breast screening advocate. We’re all so busy and, if we’re feeling well, it’s very easy to put off any form of cancer screening. In the back of our minds, we are also all a little scared of what might be found. I can tell you that the alternative is far worse. Make sure you book in your screens TODAY and stay regular with it. One day it could save your life.” –says Regina.

For more resources, see the infographic below or visit this video for cervical cancer screening information, or this video for bowel screening information.

For more health tips, click here!