Cancer test fears



CLAIMS that women are being turned away from breast screening clinics has been hotly denied by health chiefs.

Breastscreen NSW yesterday moved to reassure women that free breast screening was available for women outside the ages of 50 to 69 years of age.

The NSW Opposition claims that the government has failed to match increasing demand for breast-screening services and that women are being turned away.

Breast cancer screening has been centre stage since popstar Kylie Minogue announced last week she had been diagnosed with the disease.

The deputy NSW Liberal leader, Barry O'Farrell, said women aged under 50 and over 70 were being turned away from the program.

He had obtained documents under the Freedom of Information Act which outlined strategies to cut service to women outside the target age range.

Mr O'Farrell said a funding crisis had also seen mobile testing units wound back or stopped altogether.

Murwillumbah and Tweed Heads are serviced by mobile testing vans but BreastScreen NSW spokesman Richard Tewson said yesterday that services to the area had not changed.

The mobile testing units will visit Murwillumbah from early September to mid October and Tweed Heads from mid September to early November.

The director of Breast Screen NSW, Ann Brassil, said yesterday that screening for women under 50 was less effective because the mammographic test was best able to show cancers on a post-menopausal breast.

Ms Brassil said that although women over 70 years of age get breast cancer at increasing rates, the disease is less likely to affect their mortality.

Ms Brassil said that although women over 70 years of age get breast cancer at increasing rates, the disease is less likely to affect their mortality.

"From the age of 70, women are advised to discuss the requirement for ongoing screening with their GP so they make an informed decision," she said.

She also confirmed that although women aged 40 to 49 years and those over 70 are not actively targeted by the service, they are still eligible to attend BreastScreen.

BreastScreen NSW has a permanent facility at Lismore.

A strong supporter of the screening services, Murwillumbah doctor Diana Kennaugh, said screening services were specifically for people without symptoms and no history of the disease.

Dr Kennaugh said the screening services were vital because they can pick up things that women and even their doctors cannot.

"They can find things which are just 2mm in size," she said.

"It is good to go there as you want to pick things up early because it is then highly treatable."

Dr Kennaugh said the treatment of breast cancer had also advanced dramatically and there were fewer full mastectomies carried out and more reliance upon lumpectomies and the follow-up use of chemo and radiotherapy where required.



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