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Breast Screening Extension - No Start Date

Breast Screening Extension - No Start Date Under 50 years

Debbie and Tim Short, Petitioners of the 124,000 signature Breast Screening Petition that prompted the Government to extend the Breast Screening programme 45 - 69 years, are disappointed that the Minister of Health Annette King in her Press Statement of today 1st July 2004, gives no date when women will get their first free Breast Screen 45 - 49 years. The Minister of Health in February stated that the extension would start from the 1st of July 2004, but only confirming on the start date of today, that it won't. It is also disappointing that women in this age group will now only be screened two yearly, which is another backtrack on earlier recommendations. This is despite that cancer is more aggressive in younger women.

The Minister of Health is now giving the perception that by accepting registrations from women in the 45 - 49 age group, they will get an appointment in the near future, which is not correct. It is an absolute disgrace that the Minister of Health continues to mislead the women of New Zealand. To most common decent folk, eligibility and availability mean the same thing, when in fact the Ministry of Health is underfunding the capacity and can give no certainty when women in the 45 - 49 year age group will receive this service.

The Breast Cancer Action Trust of which Debbie and Tim Short are Trustees, are also very disappointed that the Minister of Health Annette King announced today that the interval screening of women under 50 years would be 2 yearly. This is contrary to the Minister's Press Release of 23rd February 2004 where the recommendation was 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 where its assumptions were based on annual screening under 50 years. The Breast Screening Programme is clearly underfunded to meet the capacity, and the Breast Screening Extension Advisory Group's decision on 2 yearly screening was a funding based decision.

It is the recommendation of the Breast Cancer Foundation that women should have annual mammography from 40 years, and the Breast Cancer Action Trust continue to campaign for this. The Minister has received expert evidence of Professor Laszlo Tabar of Sweden of the importance of the annual screening of women under 50 years. In pre-menopausal women Breast Cancer can progress much more rapidly which is why Breast Screening is recommended more frequently in women 40 - 49 years.

Capacity underfunding will cost women's lives.

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