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BCNA joins international call to challenge enduring inequities in breast cancer care

Breast Cancer Network Australia 3 mins read

18 April 2024   

Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) today joined an international call to raise the standard of breast cancer care and close gaps that exist between and within countries – including in Australia. 

On Tuesday, in Cambridge, UK, the new Lancet Commission on Breast Cancer released findings and recommendations on improving breast cancer care globally. 

The Commission’s landmark report to help reduce the impact of breast cancer on society was supported and funded in part by the Advanced Breast Cancer (ABC) Global Alliance, based in Lisbon, Portugal. 

Globally, breast cancer is the most common cancer, and by 2040, the incidence of new breast cancers is predicted to be more than 3 million per year. 

BCNA’s Director of Policy, Advocacy & Support Services, Vicki Durston – also president of the General Assembly and board member of the ABC Global Alliance – welcomed this landmark report. 

“While advances have been made in breast cancer, there remain significant inequities, including access to care and treatment among disadvantaged groups, financial toxicity, and a lack of comprehensive cancer data to inform global policy development,” Ms Durston said.  

“Although the five-year survival rate for breast cancer is high in Australia, there is still significant equity of access issues, particularly for those with metastatic breast cancer, and people from priority populations including First Nations, LGBTIQ+, CALD, and rural and remote communities.” 

The Lancet Commission’s report called for a global commitment to “raise the standard of breast cancer care and to close the equity gap that exists between and within countries”, including a call to count the number of people living with metastatic breast cancer (MBC) on cancer registries to “facilitate optimal support for this patient population”. 

It found that people living with MBC feel abandoned, isolated, and alone and might not receive appropriate care in both high-income and lower-middle-income countries. Better data could drive significant improvements in patients' MBC care, outcomes, and emotional well-being. 

This recommendation echoes those contained in a BCNA report, Time to Count People with Metastatic Breast Cancer – A Way Forward, launched in 2023, which called on Australian Governments to invest in capturing and reporting cancer stage and recurrence data, allowing us to finally count the number of people living with MBC across Australia.  

The Lancet Commission report also found that there are many hidden costs of breast cancer, even in countries with public healthcare systems. These include financial costs but extend to physical, psychological, emotional, and social costs, impacting patients, families, and broader society.  

BCNA joins the Commission's call to better identify the value that society places on “relief of the hidden costs and suffering related to breast cancer and measure the benefits of addressing these”.  

The Commission also explored the need for further work to detect breast cancers earlier through assessment and personalised risk management for people at high risk of breast cancer.  

While Australia has a relatively strong breast cancer screening program, BCNA has repeatedly called for a move towards risk-stratified breast screening in Australia that would see tailored screening regimes based on individual risk rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.  

Significantly, the Commission also calls for greater collaboration between governments, health services, patient advocates, and consumers to reduce disparities in outcomes within and between countries.  

Ms Durston said patient advocacy organisations like BCNA play a significant role in bringing together the cancer control sector, to ensure that the patient is at the centre of decisions being made about them. 

“A great example of this is when BCNA brought together key cancer and data experts at a national roundtable last year to explore ways to start counting people with MBC on Australia’s cancer registries,” she said. 

Ms Durston said the Lancet report highlights to all countries – including Australia – that there are still significant and unacceptable disparities in equal access to breast cancer treatment and care – and that there is still much more work to be done. 

“The Lancet report is yet another example of how the global community of breast cancer research, treatment, and advocacy is leading change across all cancers,” Ms Durston said. 

“BCNA is proud to be part of that change.” 

BCNA also acknowledges Australian co-authors of the report, Professor Prudence Francis and Professor Kelly-Anne Phillips, and Dr Fatima Cardoso, President of the ABC Global Alliance, Todd Harper, Belinda Kiely, and all other contributors to the Commission.  

Link to full Lancet Commission report here 

About us:

Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) is Australia’s leading breast cancer consumer organisation. BCNA provides information and support to those diagnosed and their supporters, opportunities to connect with others going through a similar situation and work to influence a stronger healthcare system to ensure all Australians affected by breast cancer receive the very best care, treatment and support.

Contact details:

Anna Malbon

Communications Specialist

0498 999 477



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