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National Cancer Control Strategy

31 August 2001 Media Statement

National Cancer Control Strategy aims for long-term solutions

Health Minister Annette King says the Government is committed to seeking long-term solutions to controlling the incidence of cancer, through the implementation of a National Cancer Control Strategy.

This Strategy is currently being developed, and the Government has also earmarked more money under the Primary Health Care Strategy for tackling cancer-causing factors such as smoking, nutrition and physical exercise.

Speaking today in support of the Cancer Society's annual Daffodil Day, Mrs King said she was determined New Zealand "will tackle this major health issue in a coordinated way, backed up by research and funding.

"The history of cancer control in this country has sadly been one of fragmentation, a lack of leadership, lack of agreement on issues, and lack of acknowledgment in the past that a comprehensive Strategy was needed."

Cancer control was selected as one of the Government's 13 priorities under the New Zealand Health Strategy.

Mrs King said the National Cancer Control Strategy would bring together all the work that had already been completed or was underway, as well as identifying "the gaps that need filling".

"We can't do everything instantly, but there is already a whole spectrum of work underway on health promotion, prevention, detection, research, treatment and rehabilitation to palliative care. The Strategy will be the glue that binds all these pieces of work together, and provide strategic direction forward."

The National Cancer Control Strategy is expected to be finalised by the second half of 2002.

Mrs King said there had already been some key successes in reducing the incidence of smoking-related cancers, breast cancer and cervical cancer.

"Smoking-related cancers account for around a third of the cancer mortality rate, so clearly strong tobacco control and smoking cessation is very important," she said.
"But smoking-related cancers can take up 20 years to develop and be identified, so what we are seeing now is the result of the level of smoking 20 years ago. Consequently, we won't see any dramatic drops in this area for some time."

Despite some criticism levelled at the Cervical Screening Programme, Mrs King said this programme has been instrumental in reducing the number of deaths from cervical cancer. In the 10 years to 1997, cervical cancer rates have dropped by 39 percent. Over the same period, the death rate from cervical cancer dropped by 44 percent.

"Work is also in progress to implement all the recommendations in the Gisborne Inquiry, including work on legislative changes that will enable the programme to be monitored and evaluated."

In terms of breast cancer, Breast Screen Aotearoa screened more than 153,000 women by December 2000. More than 10,000 of the women screened were referred to assessment, and almost 1000 women had their breast cancer detected by the programme.

Mrs King said recent international research showed that in Britain, breast cancer deaths were reduced by 20 percent as a result of screening.

"The clear message is that early detection is a woman's best protection allowing for prompt treatment and a better chance of a successful outcome."

Some examples of work already being undertaken on cancer control, and which will eventually be linked under the National Cancer Control Strategy, follow.

Prevention: Includes strategies for reducing smoking (including funding of $6.18 million a year for subsidised nicotine patches and gum in the Quitline programme), improving nutrition, improving physical activity, and reducing obesity. A hepatitis screening and vaccination programme is being implemented with a focus on high-risk population groups.

Screening: The national breast cancer and cervical screening programmes deliver and coordinate programmes to women in specified age groups. Both programmes have quality standards and protocols in place. The National Health Committee is currently reviewing the evidence for prostate cancer screening.

Early detection and diagnosis: The MoH funded the development of Guidelines for Primary Care Providers: Early Detection of Breast Cancer by the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners as an adjunct to the national breast cancer screening programme.

Treatment: From 1 October 2001, 10 new cancer drugs will be funded (at a cost of an extra $3.8m a year). All New Zealanders will be entitled to the same cancer drugs and other non-surgical cancer services (radiotherapy and chemotherapy), provided by regional cancer centres. Four new linear accelerators, to provide radiation treatment, have been bought this year for hospitals in Waikato, Auckland, Palmerston North and Dunedin (at a cost of more than $3m each). Funding for radiation therapy treatments has increased this year by 14 percent, to $31.9 million.

Rehabilitation and palliative care: The New Zealand Palliative Care Strategy, released in February 2001, is inclusive in its scope in that it addresses the care of all people who are dying, but statistically a large number of those needing palliative care are people dying of cancer. It provides an extra $7.5m to introduce consistent access to palliative care services and consistent quality, to reduce the duplication of services and increase coordination. A total of $21.2m a year funding is now provided to hospices, and additional funding of $5m is also provided through hospitals for community nursing palliative care services.


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