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Enhancing breast screening and staging research to improve practice

University of Sydney Professor

Nehmat Houssami

The national breast screening program, by facilitating earlier detection, has contributed to a much improved survival rate for breast cancer. However, more advanced breast screening technology, such as 3D mammographic screening, could be available if there was evidence to support that they will further reduce deaths from breast cancer.

Professor Houssami has previously shown that 3D mammography has a 33 per cent higher detection rate than current mammographic screening technology. However, there is no evidence that the technology will reduce the risk of a woman developing breast cancer between screenings. This evidence is required before public health programs adopt 3D technology.

Although 3D mammograms are available in some private clinics in Australia, they are not backed by enough evidence to show that they provide better outcomes than standard screening.

Worldwide there are no public-funded screening programs routinely using 3D mammography, and this is because there is no evidence that it will have a true impact on the reduction of breast cancer deaths.

The evidence from this research project will prompt decisions on whether 3D mammography should be adopted as a primary screening strategy in Australia and globally sooner rather than later.

The main element of this multi-pronged research program aims to improve outcomes for Australian women, including those with dense breast tissue, by ensuring that 3D mammography evidence is available to inform on the most effective screening methods.

Professor Houssami’s program also aims to ensure every woman receives best-practice by contributing to developing international breast cancer surgery guidelines.

Recommendations from the research program will be integrated into guidelines and will be immediately available to clinicians, so they can provide the best informed and evidence-based surgical treatment to patients from the initial point of contact. These guidelines also aim to reduce unnecessary surgery for those with non-invasive breast cancers.

University of Sydney Professor

Nehmat Houssami