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Vulnerable Cancer Patients Treated As Low Priority

Breast Cancer Action Trust Press Release
19th MAY 2005

Vulnerable Cancer Patients Treated As Low Priority

Once again the Government treats vulnerable cancer patients as low priority. It has had over 5 years to properly fund struggling cancer services and has failed. The funding of the Cancer Control Council though, is welcomed.

Despite mention of the Breast Screening Extension in the Budget, there has been no additional services or increase in funding in addition to the Government Press Release of February 2004 regarding the rollout that commenced 1st July 2004. This was confirmed today by John Saunders, from the Minister of Health's office.

Tim Short, husband of Debbie Short and father of 3 daughters are a family that knows Breast Cancer with Debbie Short's diagnosis of 8 Breast Cancer tumours in 2001. Following Mrs Short's surgery, Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy, a 124,000 signature Petition to Parliament in November 2003 calling for an expansion of Breast Screening from 50 - 64 years to 40 - 70 years that resulted in a new Policy extension of 45 - 69 yrs in February last year. However, the extension programme is underfunded and struggling to meet demand nationwide. A significant factor of this is through not paying international salaries to maintain staff, though it is happy to pay to train them and then let them go overseas which is false economy.

The Budget was the Government's big chance to address cancer services which has been an achilles heel to it. The problem is not limited to Mammography Radiologists but also with lack of staff retention in Radiotherapy and Oncology Specialists. It is totally unacceptable to have delays in Chemotherapy and Radiation that continue to fail to meet international guidelines in many regions. My goodness, this has been going on for nearly 6 years. We are talking about very vulnerable New Zealanders who can't speak out because they are so ill - it is shameful and disgraceful - don't they care, Mr Short says.

Mr Short is the Chair of the Breast Cancer Action Trust that ran the Petition to Parliament. Their current project motivated out of frustration, is a subsidized mammography programme called "Save the Women" that will enable women 40 -45 years with a community services card to get a mammogram at $60 being half the national average of $120. We shouldn't need to do this. Australia has had free mammography from 40 years since 1991 and they have a 28% higher survival rate than New Zealand. As we have seen with Kylie Minogue's diagnosis the key to a good prognosis is early diagnosis and a mammogram is the practical method of picking up a small tumour much smaller than detectable through self-examination.

Tim Short (Chair) Jane Lyndon (Trustee)


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