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One in three North Qld women skip breast screening

North Queensland women are leading Australia when it comes to breast cancer screening – but around one in three are still skipping regular mammograms.

The Charters Towers, Ingham and Ayr regions have the nation’s highest participation rate for breast screening, with 67.2% of women aged between 50 and 74 participating in free mammograms every two years.

The Townsville region is close behind with a participation rate of 62.4%.

Mater Private Hospital Townsville is urging local women to do even better during this October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Mater breast cancer surgeon Dr April Miu said early detection was the best protection against a disease that claims the lives of more than 3,000 Australian women each year.


North Queensland is doing well compared to the rest of Australia, but the proportion of women who are not participating in the free screening program is still disturbingly high
Dr April Miu

“Early detection dramatically improves the chances of a patient beating breast cancer."

“It is vital that women in the most at-risk age group follow the advice to undergo screening every two years. A mammogram only takes 10 minutes and could save your life.”

Mater is the state’s largest not-for-profit hospital network and its leading centre for breast cancer treatment and research, with one in every four breast cancer patients in Queensland treated at a Mater hospital.

Australia’s average breast screening participation rate is just 49.6%, with Queensland averaging only slightly more at 50.8%.

All women aged between 50 and 74 are entitled to a free mammogram every two years. Dr Miu said women over the age of 74 remain eligible for free mammograms and should discuss participation in the screening program with their GP.

According to BreastScreen Australia, women often cite the absence of a family history of breast cancer, the possible discomfort of a mammogram and forgetfulness as reasons for skipping mammograms.

Mater Private Hospital Townsville General Manager Stephanie Barwick said hesitant women needed to know the facts about breast cancer and mammograms.

“Most women with breast cancer have no family history of it, so screening is absolutely essential for all women aged 50 to 74,” Ms Barwick said.

“Also, mammograms should not hurt – just let the radiographer know if you experience any discomfort.

“We know women lead busy lives and it’s easy to forget or just ignore a screening request."

“But the fact is breast cancer doesn’t care if you’re busy – a 10-minute mammogram could save your life.”

Breast Cancer Facts


  • Breast cancer is the most common women’s cancer in Australia
  • More than 20,000 women and 200 men are diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia each year
  • More than 3200 Australians die from breast cancer each year
  • Patients diagnosed with breast cancer have a 92% chance of surviving 5+ years
  • If cancer is limited to the breast, the five-year survival rate rises to 96%
  • To book or find out more about screening go to BreastScreen Australia program

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