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GPs offer answer to breast screening problem

Wednesday, 18 July 2001

Dr Jim Vause Deputy President

GPs offer simple, proven answer to meeting breast screening targets

General Practice has the potential to dramatically increase the percentage of women opting to be screened for breast cancer if it were properly funded to target the problem, says the Royal NZ College of General Practitioners.

Deputy President Dr Jim Vause points to an effort undertaken by staff in his own practice, which dramatically increased the number of women in the target 50 to 65 age group who opted to be screened, and says similar results could be achieved throughout New Zealand.

“Before we commenced, 13 percent of eligible women were self-referring to Breast Screen South, despite the extensive advertising of the programme,” Dr Vause says. “So we went through our patient database identifying women in the target age group without a previous history of breast cancer. Those women were then contacted by practice staff, the benefits of screening were explained, and their permission was sought to enrol them in the screening programme. The enrolment list was then sent to Breast Screen South.” As a result of the practice’s efforts, 91 percent of eligible women opted to be screened.

“Similar results have also been demonstrated in the pilot projects where GPs have been involved. While there would be some regional variation across the country, General Practice could easily – and relatively inexpensively – ensure that the vast majority of women who ought to undergo breast screening, do so,” Dr Vause says. “It cost our practice a few thousand dollar, some of which was funded by Breast Screen South. If the government and the Minister are serious about their belief in the efficacy of primary care and preventative health, then an investment in funding General Practice to undertake this kind of work – and not just in breast screening – is clearly justified on both public health and fiscal grounds.”

ends

Contact: Dr Jim Vause (03) 578-0470 Dr Helen Rodenburg (04) 383-6972 or (021) 650-203 or: Rex Widerstrom (04) 496-5962 or (025) 549-637

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