BreastScreen NSW has temporarily closed a number of screening clinics and mobile vans in Greater Sydney and across NSW, due to the escalating COVID-19 situation.
At present, no BreastScreen NSW clinics on the Mid North Coast are impacted. A mobile van that had been in Taree has been relocated and is being rescheduled to return later in the year.
BreastScreen NSW invites well women aged 50 to 74 with no cancer symptoms to a population-based (larger centre) screening program.
Due to the ongoing COVID pandemic, BreastScreen NSW recently 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 restarted, the impact was minimal, a BreastScreen NSW spokesperson said.
That said, women experiencing breast symptoms should see their GP without delay to get a referral for diagnostic testing, which is the national recommended pathway for symptomatic women.
BreastScreen NSW services are operated by Local Health Districts. In response to the increasing risk posed by the COVID-19 Delta strain, as well as significant cancellations and a need to redeploy staff to support the pandemic response, districts have made the decision to close individual screening services as necessary.
All booked clients who have been affected will be contacted to rebook at another service or on a future date.
BreastScreen NSW would like to reassure women that the short-term suspension of screening services will be monitored closely.
As always, women are encouraged to remain 'breast aware' and see their GP if they experience any symptoms.
Local screening service centres include:
- North Coast Cancer Institute Building, lower ground floor, Wrights Rd, Port Macquarie Base Hospital.
- North Coast Cancer Institute Building, ground floor, Coffs Harbour Health Campus.
To make an appointment, call 132 050.
In 2020, an analysis of cancer notifications in Victoria found a 10 per cent reduction of cancer diagnoses due to the impact of the COVID-19 restrictions, which included a temporary closure of BreastScreen Victoria services.
Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) is concerned that a similar decline in diagnoses is likely to be seen across NSW due to the stay-at-home orders, temporary closures of some NSW screening services, and community hesitancy to respond to symptoms of concern.
Professor Bruce Mann, surgeon and BCNA board member, said seeing a healthcare professional for any concerns people may have about changes to their breasts is critical.
"When a person finds a lump or sees changes in their breast, assessments and tests are key to finding out whether it's benign or whether it's a tumour that could be aggressive and quickly become harder to treat," Prof Mann said.
"These assessments need to be done urgently to give women, and men, the best chance of recovery."
BCNA's director of Policy and Advocacy, Vicki Durston, said a focus must remain on early detection of breast cancer and that every effort should be made to ensure people with symptoms of concern can access the services and care that they need.
"We acknowledge that every effort needs to be made to keep communities safe but breast cancer won't wait for COVID, closing routine screening programs will delay early detection, diagnosis and potentially life-saving treatment," Ms Durston said.
"The Victorian system is still dealing with the impact of last year's closures and the rebounding of later stage breast cancer presentations. BCNA is calling for a national roadmap to address the impact of COVID on these and related services."
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