Early Detection of Breast Cancer Through Regular Screening Reduces Patient Costs, Study Reveals

23 Aug 2021

There are many reasons that women are reluctant to attend routine breast screening and we know that COVID fears and restrictions have recently seen screenings brought to a temporary halt, but with services now recommenced it’s an important time to schedule your screening and get back on track with your routine.  Findings from recent research also provide a compelling reason to book in for regular mammograms.

The study, conducted by a team at the Centre for Health Economics at Monash University shows women face the likelihood of being diagnosed with more advanced, harder-to-treat cancers if left delayed. This can in turn lead to increased costs for out-of-hospital medical services and prescriptions, as well as additional diagnostic procedures, when diagnosed through ‘community detection’ outside of subsidised two-yearly screening programs, such as BreastScreen.

Pink Hope reached out to Karinna Saxby, who was the lead author on the study, to discuss the findings of the study in more depth, you can view the full interview here

What is community detection and why does it mean higher costs are incurred?
Community detection refers to the diagnosis of a breast cancer that was not detected through a regular breast screening routine, for example when a woman discovers a lump herself, sees her GP and is then sent for a mammogram as a part of the diagnosis process.

Diagnosis at the stage that the cancer has become evident to the touch, or visually, means that the cancer is likely to be more advanced and harder to treat than a cancer detected early through a screening program.

“Women aged 50 or older are encouraged to get two-yearly breast screens through the BreastScreen program and women who are considered high risks, such as HER2+ or BRCA carriers, are encouraged to be screened annually,” Karinna says. “It is a must to help with early detection of breast cancer before it is symptomatic.”

How does this impact women in regional and rural Australia?
Karinna explained that research shows that women diagnosed with breast cancer living in a rural or more regional part of Australia are more likely to be diagnosed through community detection as access to screening facilities is more limited.

This then naturally leads to the likely hood of higher costs all around as diagnostic and treatment programs may be harder to access and require travel, which incurs even further expenses.

BreastScreen has mobile screening vans that travel regionally regularly, visit the BreastScreen site here to locate a van near you.

What changes could come about as a result of the study?
The costs presented in the study capture the extra community costs associated with breast cancer, these costs are on top of existing medical expenses and Karinna says that “policymakers need to fully understand the costs associated with breast screening and resultant cancer diagnosis.”

“Given women may lose their job or have reduced work hours as a result of cancer treatments, we are only scratching the surface of the full cost burden experienced by breast cancer patients.”

An ideal outcome would obviously be the elimination of all out-of-pocket expenses associated with cancer treatments, we remain hopeful that this may one day be the case.