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Breast Screening Limitations Untenable

Media Release
3 December 2003

Breast Screening Limitations Untenable

New Zealand First’s spokesperson for women’s affairs, Barbara Stewart, has reiterated the party’s call for the narrow age limits for breast screening to be extended to include women from 40 – 70 years of age.

“American research has found that women over the age of 40 who have routine mammograms are more likely to detect breast cancer in its earliest and most treatable stage. The American Cancer Society advises women 40 and over to have annual mammograms,” said Mrs Stewart.

“In New Zealand at present screening is available for women aged 50 to 64 and the Minister of Health, in response to questioning, has said that she has reports justifying extension for the 65+ age group but not for younger women.

“However a comparison of breast cancer registrations for 2002 show that 426 women aged between 40 to 50 were victims, compared with 186 aged between 65 to 70.

“The Minister is ignoring statistics which show that making screening available for a wider age range could save lives by making earlier discovery and earlier treatment possible.

“At the very least the Minister should lower the age of eligibility for screening to 40 and preferably extend it to include women aged 65 to 70. A petition calling for the extension of the programme collected over 124,000 signatures which shows that there is concern in the community about the limitations of current screening criteria.”

“We should be learning from the experience of Australia and the United States and taking steps to save women and their families from unnecessary tragedy,“ said Mrs Stewart.

ENDS

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