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Breast cancer screening extension meets target

Hon Pete Hodgson
Minister of Health

5 December 2005 Media Statement

Breast cancer screening extension meets target

More than 160,000 women have been screened for breast cancer since the extension of the screening programme 14 months ago – a 23 per cent increase over the previous 14-month period.

Health Minister Pete Hodgson said the result meant the extension of the screening programme to cover women in the 45-49 and 65-69 age groups had met its first-year targets.

"This is an excellent result for women, their families and the New Zealand health system," Pete Hodgson said. "We know that early detection is vital – regular screening can reduce a woman's chance of dying of breast cancer by between 20-45 per cent.

"Since the programme was extended, 11,000 women under 50 years of age and more than 31,000 women over 65 have been screened for breast cancer."

Pete Hodgson said the result was particularly welcome given the numerous challenges faced in implementing the extended screening programme.

"This was a major extension and it threw up a number of challenges, not least of which was recruiting enough staff to make the programme work. Despite the challenges, the programme is on target both nationally and in the majority of local areas.

"The challenge now is to continue our momentum and work with providers in areas that are still working to achieve their targets.

"Some women who should be covered by the extension have experienced delays. We need to work to ensure that all women who are eligible get access to the extended screening."

The extension of Breast Screen Aotearoa was launched in July 2004.


FACT SHEET: Extension of Breast Screen Aotearoa

Early detection of curable cancers through regular mammography screening is a woman's best means of reducing her chances of dying from breast cancer.
For a woman under 50, regular screening reduces her chances of dying by about 20%. For a woman aged between 50 and 64, the reduction is 30%. For women aged 65 to 69, the reduction is about 45%.

BreastScreen Aotearoa (BSA) was launched in December 1998 for women aged 50 to 64 years. BSA is a free national breast screening programme that checks women for early breast cancer by providing mammograms to eligible women every two years.

The programme aims to reduce the number of women who die from breast cancer. Currently, around 630 women die each year from breast cancer in New Zealand.
BSA aims to screen 70% of the eligible population every two years to achieve a 30% reduction in breast cancer mortality.
On 1 July 2004, the BSA programme was extended to include women aged 45 to 49 and women aged 65 to 69. It was estimated that this extension would increase the BSA screening volumes by approximately 70% over three to four years.
BSA breast screening services would be available to an additional 216,000 women, in addition to the more than 328,000 women aged 50 to 64 already covered by the programme.

An additional $13 million per year was committed to fund the extension of BSA, bringing the total annual investment in the national breast screening programme to $40.5 million.

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