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Breast cancer report released

Breast cancer report released

The Health Committee today presented to the House its report on two petitions relating to breast cancer. The petition of Debbie and Tim Short and 124,000 others requests that Parliament encourage the Government to amend the breast-screening programme urgently so that it includes women aged from 40 years to 70 years (as in Australia) instead of 50 years to 64 years (as was the case when the petition was presented to the House in November 2003). In February 2004 the Government announced that the breast cancer screening programme would be extended to cover women from 45 years of age up to 69 years of age.

The committee noted that there was a diversity of opinion about whether or not to include 40- to 49-year-old women in the breast cancer screening programme. The committee supported the extension to the screening programme for 65- to 70-year-olds (as already announced by the Government), but did not consider that 45- to 49-year-olds should have been included in the programme before completion of a trial currently underway in the United Kingdom.

“The United Kingdom study will provide some solid data to base decisions on,” committee chairperson Steve Chadwick said. “At the moment, we do not think there is sufficient evidence that mammography screening is the correct option for the younger age group.” The committee does expects the Government to make sure it has adequate resources in place to enable all eligible women to access the screening programme as needed. “We would also like to see the independent monitoring group re-established to evaluate whether sufficient resources are being made available for the widened screening programme,” Mrs Chadwick said.

The petition of Kathryn McIlraith and 9,852 others requests the House to take immediate action to ensure that all women who have had breast cancer surgery receive the appropriate follow-up treatment, including radiation therapy that meets the internationally accepted clinical guidelines.

The committee continues to be concerned about delays in cancer treatment. “We hope that the increase in radiation therapists graduating will help address current staffing shortages, and so improve waiting times,” Mrs Chadwick said. The committee will continue to monitor the issue during its regular financial reviews of the Ministry of Health and district health boards.


The committee’s report can be viewed at >http://www.clerk.parliament.govt.nz/cgi-bin/select-reports

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