Cancer Council urges caution over commercial breast checks

Monday 4 October, 2010

As the world turns pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Cancer Council Victoria is urging women to beware of companies offering breast imaging services as a means of detecting breast cancer.

"Here in Victoria there is a growing number of companies promoting various breast scanning technologies which they claim can help find breast cancer. These services often target young women and are often aggressively marketed as being ‘safe', ‘non-invasive' and ‘comfortable' - the implication being they are a viable alternative to mammographic screening.

"Mammography is the only screening method for which there is top level evidence that it saves lives. Women need to be very wary of claims that other technologies are equally or more effective at detecting breast cancer," said Cancer Council Victoria's Manager of Cancer Screening, Kate Broun.

In April this year Cancer Council WA released a report looking at a range of breast imaging services being promoted in the state. The report found insufficient evidence to support the safety or efficacy of the technologies and concluded that until such evidence becomes available, women should use proven strategies for the detection of breast cancer, such as mammography and being breast aware.

The fact is, Australia has a very effective free national breast cancer screening program. All women aged 50 to 69 are invited for a mammogram (breast X-ray) every two years through BreastScreen, and women aged 40 to 49 and 70 or over may attend if they wish. Cancer Council encourages women of all ages to be ‘breast aware' which means being familiar with the normal look and feel of your breasts and promptly reporting any changes to your doctor.

"Our chief concern is a situation in which a woman relies on one of these unproven technologies and later develops breast cancer which is found too late for successful treatment.

"While we acknowledge that mammography is not perfect, it is the most reliable and effective early detection tool we have for breast cancer," said Ms Broun.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women in Victoria. In 2007, 3188 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in Victoria and 708 died from the disease. Women with questions about breast cancer can call the Cancer Council Helpline 13 11 20.

Read our blog on this topic.