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Cost of Doctor delayed cancer diagnosis

Jim Anderton Further evidence that the cost of doctor's visits and breast mammography is putting women's lives at risk.

Yesterday Alliance leader Jim Anderton said the cost of treatment is causing women at risk of cancer to delay getting treatment because of the cost.

Today he revealed the case of a 47-year-old Christchurch woman who developed a 4-cm tumour after she delayed getting medical attention for a breast lump. The woman discovered the lump in May 1996.

At the time, she didn't have a spare $40 to visit the doctor.

She also thought she would have to pay around $100 for a mammogram and put it off.

By September, when The woman took up a Saturday job allowing her to pay for a doctor's visit, she had a 4cm tumour.

She needed an urgent mastectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy.'The woman's GP sent her for a mammogram and she had to pay.

This shows the confusion around diagnosis and breast screening.

Any woman with a lump is supposed to receive a diagnostic mammogram fre! e under the public health system.'Obviously GPs need to be educated and women themselves need to know what their rights are.

There is no way the woman should have been required to pay.'Jim Anderton has asked the Health Minister to ensure the urgent release of Guidelines to GPs for the Management of Breast Lumps, which has been in preparation for some time.The national breast-screening programme is separate.

At present, women aged 50 to 64 are screened free if they have no symptoms of breast cancer.

Women o f any age are entitled to free treatment and diagnosis if symptoms do exist.'The woman is angry that cost kept her away from early detection and treatment and suspects her prognosis is not good.

'The cost of accessing a GP must be placed alongside the emotional cost to the woman and her family and the actual cost of her subsequent treatment and care - $3754 for a mastectomy, $694 for chemotherapy and $5078 for radiotherapy at a total cost to the public health system of aro! und $9,500.'The Alliance wants all charges for doctors vi! sits and essential medical care removed.

'In this situation, delay can cost lives.

Cost must not prevent women from accessing the quality screening and treatment they deserve,' Jim Anderton said.

ENDS

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