Concern as BreastScreen NSW clinic closures extend across the state due to COVID-19

There are fresh concerns over the closure of BreastScreen NSW screening clinics and mobile vans as a result of the current COVID-19 outbreak, with the closure now extending to all of NSW.

A statement posted to the BreastScreen NSW website and dated August 17, said that in response to the increasing risk posed by the COVID-19 Delta strain, BreastScreen NSW will "temporarily suspend all routine breast screening across the state by Thursday, August 19".

"This temporary closure is to allow staff to be redeployed to assist in the management of COVID-19," the statement said.

The Leader reported on August 11 that BreastScreen NSW had temporarily closesd many of its clinics and mobile vans "in response to the increasing risk posed by the COVID-19 Delta strain".

This included services located at Miranda and St George Hospital at Kogarah, as well as Campbelltown, Liverpool, Wattle Grove, Wetherill Park and the Hawkesbury.

"BreastScreen NSW would like to reassure women across NSW that their safety and well-being is always our priority," according to a statement on its website.

It cited "significant cancellations and a need to redeploy staff to support the pandemic response for the reason for the closures".

Women were encouraged to see their GP if they noticed "any breast symptoms or have concerns about your breast health".

BreastScreen NSW services come under Cancer Institute NSW and is managed by local health districts.

It is a free screening service for women aged 50 to 74 with no cancer symptoms.

A Cancer Institute NSW spokeswoman said the decision to temporarily close the service came after it commissioned modelling to quantify "any potential impact of a temporary suspension of screening".

"The modelling showed that, provided women went on to screen once the program recommenced, the impact was minimal," she said.

But there are fears the suspension of the BreastScreen service will lead to much later breast cancer diagnosis and worse outcomes for patients..

The BreastScreen Australia monitoring report 2020 produced by the federal government's Australian Institute of Health and Welfare said 55 per cent of women in the targeted age group participated in the BreastScreen Australia program in 2017-2018.

This equated to more than 1.8 million women undergoing a screening mammogram through BreastScreen Australia.

The report said more than half of all the invasive breast cancer cases in women aged 50-74 diagnosed in 2016 were detected through BreastScreen Australia.

"In 2018, 59 per cent of cancers detected through BreastScreen Australia for women aged 50-74 were small (15 millimetres)," the report said.

"Breast cancer mortality has decreased since BreastScreen Australia began, from 74 deaths per 100,000 women aged 50-74 in 1991, to 40 deaths per 100,000 women in 2018."

This story BreastScreen closure concerns first appeared on St George & Sutherland Shire Leader.