Ballina MP Don Page has submitted a petition to the NSW Parliament containing over 1300 signatures of local people opposed to the removal of mobile breast screening on the Far North Coast.

The terms of the petition brought to the NSW Labor Government’s attention:

  • That the mobile Breast Screen Units have been removed from many areas of the North Coast Area Health Service;
  • This removal is disadvantaging women in these areas and reducing their chances of an early diagnosis of breast cancer due to the difficulty experienced in trying to get to a fixed screening unit;
  • An early diagnosis greatly increases a woman’s chance of survival; and
  • Already less than 50% of eligible women are being screened.
    Mr Page said it was important to keep the campaign for reinstatement of the mobile breast screening vans active because it would save lives.

“I’ve raised the issue many times in Parliament and I will continue to put this important issue before the State Labor Government,” he said.

The issue was first raised by Mr Page in March last year and the campaign to have the mobile service returned has been growing ever since.

“My office is consistently contacted by concerned residents who can no longer access the mobile breast screen service. Many of them have difficulty accessing the fixed services in Lismore or Tweed Heads due to lack of transport, work and family commitments,” Mr Page said.

One in eight Australian women will develop breast cancer, with over 12,000 women diagnosed every year. 

There is a rally today in Ballina and Byron Bay to protest against the loss of the mobile breast screen vans since June 2008. 

“Parliament is sitting, so unfortunately I can’t be there to support the rally today. I will be continuing to raise this issue in Parliament as I have this week,” Mr Page said.

Meanwhile, Greens MP Ian Cohen will ask Health Minister Carmel Tebbutt about improving access for all Northern Rivers women to the new breast screen machines that are at Tweed Heads and Lismore.

Mr Cohen supports the concerns of residents who are protesting the removal of mobile screening units that serviced Ballina, Byron Bay, Lennox Head and Casino.

Women in the area now have to go to fixed breast screening units at Lismore or Tweed Heads for a mammogram.
“I will be putting Questions on Notice to the Health Minister because I am concerned about a reduction of access to breast screening services,” Mr Cohen said.

“I raised this issue in Parliament during Breast Cancer Awareness Week last year. I also wrote to the Minister about the issue. She assured me then that the mobile units have been replaced by state-of-the-art breast screening machines at Lismore and Tweed Heads.
“I will be asking the Health Minister further questions to determine whether these new machines could be put into mobile units. Women would then have the advantage of the new technology and the increased access that the mobile unit provides.
“Not all women in the Northern Rivers area have a car; there is poor public transport in the area and many women will find it very difficult to get to their nearest screening centre.
“It is important to increase the number of women who are coming to be screened for breast cancer. I am especially concerned about women from Indigenous communities in less accessible areas such as Cabbage Tree Island, for whom travel to Lismore is quite an expedition.
“Local women report that when there was a van in Ballina, a mammogram was a quick examination that took around 15 minutes. Just to travel to Lismore from Ballina will take 40 minutes each way.
“The message of all breast cancer awareness campaigns is that early detection is of paramount importance in determining a woman’s survival and recovery from the disease.

“I will be asking the Minister if the return of the mobile BreastScreen units can provide better health outcomes for women by making screening easier to access.”