BreastScreen NSW clinics in Sydney remain closed due to COVID-19

BreastScreen NSW clinics throughout Sydney remain closed, three months after the service temporarily suspended operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

It is run by Cancer Institute NSW and managed by local health districts.

The suspension of the service has sparked fears it will lead to much later breast cancer diagnosis and worse outcomes for patients.

The Leader reported last month that BreastScreen NSW had temporarily closed 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.

In an update posted on its website on September 13, BreastScreen NSW said it had temporarily suspended all screening services across NSW on August 19, due to the evolving COVID-19 situation.

"This followed a gradual localised suspension of services across Greater Sydney and some regional areas that commenced in late June," the statement said.

"The decision to suspend screening was made in response to the increasing risk posed by the COVID-19 Delta strain and a need to redeploy staff to support the pandemic response at each local health district."

BreastScreen NSW said it was working closely with services at each local health district to resume screening "as soon as conditions allow".

"As clinics reopen, we will be prioritising women who had their appointment cancelled during the suspension to rebook their appointment as soon as it is possible in their local area," it said.

"The reopening of clinics will be gradual, with the decision to open each clinic made on a case-by-case basis according to the level of risk and operational considerations posed by the COVID-19 Delta strain in the area."

The statement said BreastScreen NSW was currently resuming services in Casino, Coffs Harbour, Grafton, Kyogle, Port Macquarie and Tamworth.

The Leader has asked the Cancer Institute NSW to comment on when Sydney services might resume.

The BreastScreen Australia monitoring report 2020 produced by the federal government's Australian Institute of Health and Welfare said more than 1.8 million women underwent a screening mammogram through the BreastScreen Australia program in 2017-2018.

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

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.

"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," it said.

The Leader has asked the Cancer Institute NSW to comment on when Sydney services might resume.

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

This story BreastScreen clinics remain closed first appeared on St George & Sutherland Shire Leader.