Breast cancer cases going undetected because of Covid-19 – sign this petition to help find them

The Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC) fully supports a petition launched recently by Breast Cancer Foundation NZ (BCFNZ) urging the Government to put resource into finding women who have missed their mammograms and restoring New Zealand’s breast screening programme.

BCFNZ warns that at least 133 women across Aotearoa New Zealand have no idea they have breast cancer right now and predict the number of undetected breast cancer cases will grow as both BreastScreen Aotearoa (the national screening organisation) and private clinics deal with the fallout of extended lockdowns.

The 133 missing women can be attributed to the national breast screening programme being put on hold when the country went into Alert Level 4 on 18 August, and then running at reduced capacity during Level 3.

Data also shows that since the arrival of Covid, a higher proportion of invasive cancers have been found later than they could have been, and participation in breast screening has been set back 10 years, with younger women and vulnerable populations most affected.

As a result, deaths from breast cancer could soon be on the rise and urgent action is required to reverse this alarming trend.

BCAC Chair, Libby Burgess, agrees the situation is very concerning and notes BCAC has been encouraging anyone who has missed screening or follow up appointments due to Covid-19 lockdowns to re-book and be seen as soon as possible.

Libby says, “We’re so pleased BCFNZ has initiated this petition and is drawing attention to the situation. We can’t ignore other pressing health issues because of the pandemic. It’s critical that cancer detection and treatment remain priorities as well.

“Please support the initiative by signing the petition here.”

The petition calls on Government to:

  • Add breast screening participation to the new Health System Indicators that measure how well our public health system is doing.
  • Invest in restoring and extending the BreastScreen Aotearoa programme to the agreed target of 70% coverage of women aged 45-69, and extending to 70-74 in line with other countries.
  • Provide funding and resources to enable BreastScreen Aotearoa to process the entire backlog within six months.
  • Ensure breast screening continues to operate in Level 4 lockdown in the same way as Level 3, to help minimise future losses.

The petition can be signed at www.missingwomen.org.nz .

18 October 2021

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