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Coalition welcomes recommendations on breast screening

Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC)
Media Release
7 September 2012

Coalition welcomes
recommendations on breast screening

The Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC) says women can have confidence in the country’s breast screening programme and must continue to use it.

The call follows the release of the Report of the National Panel to Review Breast Biopsy Errors, which examined recent serious errors in breast biopsy analysis.

As a result of these errors, several women endured unnecessary invasive medical treatment, while others did not get the treatment they required until the errors were recognised.

The report of the National Panel made several recommendations to ensure errors such as this do not happen again, including:
• the use of technology to standardise laboratory processes to minimise errors
• improved reporting of serious and sentinel events
• better collaboration between laboratories on quality initiatives
• nationally consistent processes for supporting patients affected by serious errors.

BCAC chair, Libby Burgess, says the biopsy errors were tragic and life-changing for the women involved, but she welcomes the report’s recommendations.

“The breast screening programme protects New Zealand women and ensures that fewer of us die from breast cancer, so we welcome any suggestions to improve it.

“BCAC will be monitoring this situation and making sure the report’s recommendations are implemented because New Zealand women rely on these pathologists to diagnose breast cancer properly.”

Ms Burgess says the number of errors identified is small considering the many thousands of women who are screened annually. She says women shouldn’t lose faith in the system.

“What has happened for these women is terrible and we hope they will be suitably recompensed, but all New Zealand women must continue to have faith in the screening system.

“It is indisputable that the best way to detect breast cancer early is through a regular mammogram screening programme, combined with breast awareness and action when any changes are noticed. Women must continue to engage with the programme because finding breast cancer early saves lives.”


About the Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC)

The Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC) is an Incorporated Society with charitable status and is run by breast cancer survivors. The organisation is committed to making world-class detection, treatment and care accessible to all those affected by breast cancer in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

BCAC currently has more than 30 breast cancer-related member organisations and our key aims are:
• to support and empower those diagnosed with breast cancer, and their family, whanau and friends, by providing information and resources that allow women to make well-informed choices about their treatment and care
• to provide a voice for New Zealand women diagnosed with breast cancer
• to inform and advocate for timely access to world class breast cancer care, including treatments (surgery, medicines, radiotherapy, management of side-effects, self -care) and psychosocial care throughout New Zealand
• to consult and engage with Māori and Pasifika women to identify and promote breast cancer issues that could improve outcomes in these communities.

About breast cancer in New Zealand

Around 2,700 New Zealand women will be diagnosed with breast cancer every year. That's seven women diagnosed every day.
Around 20 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in New Zealand each year.
Each year, 650 women will die from breast cancer in New Zealand, two every day.
About five to ten per cent of breast cancers are hereditary i.e. a breast cancer gene (e.g. BRCA1 or BRCA2) has been passed on. However, most breast cancers are diagnosed in women with no family history of the disease.
The risk of breast cancer increases with age, but does affect some women in their twenties and thirties.
Māori women are 21 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than non-Māori women and 68 per cent more likely to die of the disease. Māori women are also more likely to be diagnosed when breast cancer is in its more advanced stage.

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