Australia has been ranked at the lower end of the scale when it comes to appropriate breast screening services in the developed countries that make up the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a report released on Wednesday found.
According to the 'Healthcare in Focus 2016' report from the Bureau of Health Information (BHI), which assesses the standard of accessibility, appropriateness, effectiveness and efficiency of healthcare services in OECD countries, just over half of Australians between the ages of 50 and 69 were deemed to be receiving adequate breast screening -- below the overall OECD country average.
The report, which bases the appropriateness of healthcare services on whether the "right care" is given in the "right way" as per evidence-based models of care, found Australia to be behind 14 other OECD countries including New Zealand, Finland, Iceland and South Korea when it came to breast cancer scanning services.
That finding also leaves Australia in front of just six other nations who were deemed to be offering less appropriate services for breast screening patients.
The statistic, which comes ahead of Breast Cancer Awareness month in October, highlights a worrying trend for Australians who may not be adequately prepared when it comes to breast awareness.
In a separate report released by breast cancer charity The McGrath Foundation on Tuesday, three-quarters of Australian women were found to consider themselves breast aware, but just 16 percent actually met criteria to prove that belief.
McGrath Foundation mission programs director, Jane Mahony, said in a statement that it is crucial for Australians to be as breast aware as they can in order to have the best chance of effective treatment for possible cancers.
"Early detection of breast cancer while it is still small and confined to the breast provides the best chance of effective treatment," she said.
"Breast health understanding is more than just being breast aware. It's important that people take responsibility for their breast health by educating themselves to improve confidence, knowledge and behaviour to improve health outcomes for current and future generations."
Although breast cancer is typically a disease affecting women, men can get it too. Around one percent of breast cancer cases occur in men. pic.twitter.com/FVGby5H2bw— McGrath Foundation (@McGrathFdn) July 18, 2017
The McGrath Foundation's second annual 'McGrath Breast Health Index', which surveyed more than 1,200 Australian women, also found that people who first learn about the importance of breast health from their mother are more likely to check their breasts regularly -- although when it comes to actually having conversations about breast awareness, there is more that needs to be done.
"At the McGrath Foundation we say 'if you grow them, know them' and these findings indicate that mothers have a crucial role to play in educating the next generation about breast health," Mahony said.
"As parents, plenty of us struggle with tricky topics but this research reinforces the need for Mums to have conversations with their daughters about changes in the body and breasts when talking about puberty.
"By doing so, you will be helping your child develop habits to keep them healthy for life and take action to promote their own health and wellbeing."
Did you know? pic.twitter.com/2uwuHJ4HkH— McGrath Foundation (@McGrathFdn) July 14, 2017
With a wealth of support available to Australians when it comes to breast health, the findings from both reports also highlight the effects misinformation could have on the national population and the importance of educating yourself.
So far in 2017, more than an estimated 17,000 new cases of breast cancer have been diagnosed around the country, and more than 3,000 Australians have also died as a result of the disease.