Background: A survey of pathology reporting of breast cancer in Western Australia in 1989 highlighted the need for improvement. The current study documents (1) changes in pathology reporting from 1989 to 1999 and (2) changes in patterns of histopathological prognostic indicators for breast cancer following introduction of mammographic screening in 1989.Methods: Data concerning all breast cancer cases reported in Western Australia in 1989, 1994 and 1999 were retrieved using the State Cancer Registry, Hospital Morbidity data system, and pathology laboratory records.Results: Pathology reports improved in quality during the decade surveyed. For invasive carcinoma, tumour size was not recorded in 1.2% of pathology reports in 1999 compared with 16.1% in 1989 (rho<0.001). Corresponding figures for other prognostic factors were: tumour grade 3.3% and 51.6% (rho<0.001), tumour type 0.2% and 4.1% (rho<0.001), vascular invasion 3.7% and 70.9% (rho<0.001), and lymph node status 1.9% and 4.5% (rho=0.023). In 1999, 5.9% of reports were not in a synoptic/checklist format, whereas all reports were descriptive in 1989 (rho<0.001). For the population as a whole, the proportion of invasive carcinomas <1 cm was 20.9% in 1999 compared with 14.5% in 1989 (rho<0.001); for tumours <2 cm the corresponding figures were 65.4% and 59.7% (rho=0.013). In 1999, 30.5% of tumours were histologically well-differentiated compared with 10.6% in 1989 (rho<0.001), and 61.7% were lymph node negative in 1999 compared with 57.1% in 1989 (rho=0.006). Pure ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) constituted 10.9% and 7.9% of total cases of breast carcinoma in 1999 and 1989, respectively (rho=0.01).Conclusions: Quality of pathology reporting improved markedly over the period, in parallel with adoption of stanclardised synoptic pathology reports. By 1999, recording of important prognostic information was almost complete. Frequency of favourable prognostic factors generally increased over time, reflecting expected effects of mammographic screening.