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Te Heuheu: Opening Mobile Breast Cancer Mobile

Speech Notes by the
Hon Georgina te Heuheu
at the launch of the
Breast Screening Mobile Unit
for the Greater Wellington Region on
Monday 3.30pm - 30 August 1999.


Attendees [Warren Young (Hutt Valley Health Chairman), Stephen McKernan (Hutt Valley Health CEO), and Barbara Phillips (Breast Central Manager)]

Thank you for your welcome here today.

It gives me great pleasure to be here to the launch of the Wellington region's breast screening mobile unit.

The launch of this unit today represents a very practical initiative in our fight to reduce the number of women who die from breast cancer. And make no mistake, breast cancer takes the lives of too many of our women.

Cancer itself is the second leading cause of death in New Zealand. It affects many many people directly and many others indirectly. Cancer affects family members, friends as well as those people providing services and support. It is a huge burden to individuals, and to communities. It accounts for a significant component of our health services.

Of those who die of cancer, breast cancer is the leading cause for non-Maori women in New Zealand and the second leading cause for Maori women after lung cancer.

About 10 percent of all women get breast cancer, and every year about 580 women die from the disease. We have one of the highest rates of mortality from breast cancer.

Two thirds of women who develop breast cancer in New Zealand are over the age of 50. Statistics show that the risk of developing breast cancer increases with age. Hence our current targeting of screening to women aged 50 - 64 years.

Early detection is the best way for us to combat breast cancer. If a lump is detected early, then the disease can be treated early and deaths prevented.

That's why it is so important to be ever vigilant and to get regular mammograms. Regular mammograms are our best weapon against this disease.

This new mobile unit is a fantastic addition to the Breastscreen Aotearoa service launched last year. It will provide free mammograms to all women aged 50 to 64. That's more than 250,000 women across the country.

In particular the mobile programme will benefit women in rural areas and those women in urban centres with transportation problems.

It is extremely important that women use this free service as it is capable of detecting 90 percent of all breast cancers.

This programme has a goal of 70 percent registration of all women in the target group within the next five years. We all can assist in that goal by encouraging our sisters, friends, mothers and daughters to enrol.

In Wellington the number so far registered to have screening is over 1500. I'm proud of those women who are coming forward early to enrol in the program. Your readiness to participate demonstrates your commitment to be proactive about your health.

And we all should be. Women are the backbone of families and communities. We have a responsibility to ourselves, our families and our communities to be proactive about our well-being.

Its not just women who need to be proactive about breast cancer. You may be interested to know that men are more likely than women to detect breast lumps in their partners. I don't think I need to say anything about how that is the case.........I'm sure you get the picture!

But what that means is that men also have a responsibility to be proactive in this matter on behalf of their wives and partners. Brothers and fathers and men who care for their female relatives also need to be encouraging about the need for regular mammograms.

Furthermore I think we can all take greater control of our own health by eating wisely, exercising regularly. Taking advantage of screening programmes such as these is a must. Fronting for a mammogram is scary but dieing from breast cancer is even more scary.

This mobile unit will be located throughout the Greater Wellington region to give all those most in need access to the screening programmes. It will be visiting the Waikanae and Kapiti areas starting on September 13. Please let women of that community know.

This is one of six mobile units that will be made available to women around the country. The Prime Minister launched the first one in Marton for the mid central health area at the beginning of the month. Others will be in Auckland, Waikato, Southland, and Otago.

Government is committed to the fight against breast cancer and this free screening programme is part of that commitment.

Can I thank and congratulate all those involved with the launch and the operation of this mobile unit.

It provides yet another dimension to a quality public health system which endeavours always to be responsive to the needs of its peoples.

October the first is the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness month and on that day I will again be urging women to be proactive about their bodies, and their health. It is so important for our families, that we look after ourselves. Everywhere Igo I try to be encouraging about that matter.

I would like to officially launch and name this vehicle which has been named by Te Kaireka Puhia on behalf of Te Runanganui o Taranaki ki Te Whanui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika.

I hope the naming of this unit as Te Waka Uruahu will especially encourage Maori women to come forward and register, because generally Maori are slower to seek treatment than other women.

Thank you.

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