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Minister Hoodwinks Women!

Minister Hoodwinks Women!

PHOTO ATTACHED: Debbie Short making her point outside the Breast Screening Advisory Group in Auckland on Friday 18th.

Press Release Summary:

The two key points are:

1. Women expecting the Breast Screening Extension to start from the 1st of July are going to be disappointed. To the Minister eligibility and availability mean two different things - and this is a disgrace because women's health is being put at risk.

2. The Minister's announcement of the expansion in February stated a recommendation that women under 50 years should be screened annually and in the Ministry of Health's Submission to the Health Select Committee on Breast Screening, its assumptions were also based on women 45 - 49 years being annually screened because cancer in younger women progresses more rapidly. We believe the Minister is about to backtrack on its own recommendations to 2 yearly screening for this age group because of capacity problems through under funding.


In February this year the Minister of Health, Annette King, announced that the Breast Screening programme would be expanded from 50 - 64 yrs to 45 - 70 years. This came as a result of the pressure of the nationwide Petition by Debbie and Tim Short of 124,000 signatures calling for breast screening to be expanded 40 - 70 years and their Submission to the Health Select Committee. The Minister announced that the expansion of the programme would commence from the 1st July 2004. That from the 1st of July 2004 women aged 45 would be eligible. We challenge anyone to get an appointment! The problem is, polititians and their double speak. What the Minister didn't say in February, is that while women from 45 years would be eligible, eligibility though didn't mean it would be available for them to have one. To most common decent folk, eligibility and availability mean the same thing! For the Minister to toy with women's emotions is disgraceful, and putting their health at risk - as a lot of women with breast concerns are holding off in expectation that come the 1st of July they will be able to get a free mammogram. The Minister needs to make a statement advising exactly when a women aged 45 years will be able to get an appointment under the newly extended Breast Screening programme.

The reason why the screening of younger women (pre-menopausal women) is so important, is that the tumours progress much more rapidly. For this reason, the recommendation by Private Health Providers and many International Experts, is that the screening be annually. Indeed, in the Minister's Press Release of the 23rd February 2004, it stated that the recommendation for women under 50 is annual screening. The National Screening Unit based it's asumptions that screening 45 - 49 years would be annually, and in the Ministry of Health's Submission to the Health Select Committee in February 2004, it was also based on these Annual Screening assumptions for 45 - 49 yrs. However, because of underfunding, we believe that the Ministry of Health is looking at backtracking and only offering 2 yearly screening to women under 50 years. This is outrageous, because the whole logic of needing to screen women at all under 50 years is based on the rapid cancer progression in younger woman, from no tumour to well advanced - in less than 2 years.

The Minister set up a Breast Screening Advisory Group which is fed with information based on what can be achieved with the current level of funding (under funding). This is a "Yes, Minister" Group set up to give pre-determined outcomes, so that the Minister can deflect any criticism - in other words, a scapegoat! This type of politics does not serve the best interests of women at all! On Friday the 18th of June, the Breast Screening Petitioners, Debbie and Tim Short and others, protested outside the meeting of this Group, hoping to prick their consciences and encouraging them not to become rubber-stampers! But to tell the Minister of Health what is best for women.

Women can make a difference by phoning, writing or emailing ( ) to the Minister of Health.

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