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NZ’s Five-year Survival Goal Not Good Enough, Says Breast Cancer Foundation

Today’s World Health Organisation announcement that breast cancer is now the most common cancer worldwide is a timely reminder that cancer should be top of the Ministry of Health’s investment priorities, says Breast Cancer Foundation NZ (BCFNZ) on the eve of World Cancer Day (February 4).

BCFNZ welcomed the release yesterday of Te Aho o Te Kahu Cancer Control Agency’s report, The State of Cancer 2020, which showed that despite better treatments and resulting survival gains, inequity is major issue for Māori, and New Zealanders are still more likely to die of their cancer than people in comparable countries.

The survival gap between us and other countries widens when you look beyond five years, BCFNZ warned.

“Most breast cancers are diagnosed between ages 45 and 69, so a five-year survival goal is absolutely not good enough,” said chief executive Evangelia Henderson. “Statistics NZ tells us the average 50-year-old Kiwi woman will live to 90. Aiming for a breast cancer survival of five years is unambitious and frankly inadequate. We urge the Ministry of Health to raise the bar and to report on 10-year survival from now on.”

More than 3500 NZ women were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in 2018, and about another 500 with DCIS, an early form of breast cancer that usually requires surgery.

The numbers are formidable, Mrs Henderson said, adding that the Cancer Control Agency report does a great job of highlighting the many challenges in improving equity and survival. “It’s great that we now have an agency dedicated to improving cancer outcomes. But to deliver that in breast cancer, we’ll need an extended screening programme, better access to diagnostics, more medical professionals, and far less variation in care around the country. That will take a massive commitment from Government to support the agency they created.”

Mrs Henderson said she believes New Zealand has the potential to achieve the same 10-year survival as Australia and other countries, and the Cancer Control Agency will be instrumental in that.

About BCFNZ:

Breast Cancer Foundation NZ is a not-for-profit organisation that depends on donations and fundraising for its work in breast cancer education and awareness, medical research and training grants, advocacy, and supporting women with breast cancer. BCFNZ’s programmes are evidence-based, overseen by its medical advisory committee. The pink ribbon symbol is a trademark of BCFNZ in New Zealand.

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