Guidelines to improve New Zealand's breast cancer care

12 August 2009

The Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC) believes new national guidelines on the management of early breast cancer will help to save lives. 

The New Zealand Guidelines Group today released the Early Breast Cancer Guidelines at the inaugural National Maori Cancer Forum in Rotorua.

BCAC chairperson, Libby Burgess, says the guidelines set out national standards for breast cancer care in key areas such as surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and psychosocial support.

“We’re thrilled cancer clinicians will soon have these guidelines at their fingertips. They outline best-practice treatment for those with early breast cancer and will help all clinicians to provide a high standard of care,” Ms Burgess says.

BCAC assisted with the development of the new guidelines by providing a patient perspective. 

Ms Burgess says the organisation firmly believes the guidelines will help to quash the discrepancies in breast cancer care apparent across the country.

“At the moment, the kind of care a breast cancer patient receives depends on where she lives. For instance, BCAC is aware that in some parts of the country, women wait far longer for chemotherapy and radiation therapy than others. 

“This kind of post code lottery is unacceptable.  Breast cancer patients need to know that they will get the best quality care no matter where they live and these national standards will help to ensure better patient outcomes and save lives.”

Ms Burgess says it’s appropriate that the guidelines have been released at the National Maori Cancer Forum given that Maori women have poorer access to breast cancer services and a higher mortality rate from the disease.

She says it now falls to the Ministry of Health to ensure that all District Health Board (DHBs) implement the new guidelines.  The Ministry will then be responsible for ensuring that DHBs are complying with new guidelines.

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