Women should be in no doubt that breast screening saves lives

Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC) is urging more women to participate in the free breast screening programme after a review found that it saves lives.

The University of New South Wales review of BreastScreen Aotearoa (BSA) reveals that women who have been screened are a third less likely to die from breast cancer.

BCAC chairperson Libby Burgess, says the results highlight the true value of the free breast screening programme for women aged 45 to 69. 

“These findings are powerful.  They show how crucial breast screening is not only in detecting breast cancer, but in ultimately saving lives.   We hope New Zealand women sit up and take notice of these results. Women should not hesitate or put-off going for a mammogram – it could be the difference between life and death,” Ms Burgess says.

The review examined the impact of the breast screening programme from 1999 to 2011 on breast cancer mortality. 

It found that:

  • For women ever screened by BSA, the death rate from breast cancer is reduced by a third, compared to women never screened by the programme.
  • For women who take part in regular BSA screening, the death rate from breast cancer reduced by more than a third.
  • For women with a BSA screen-detected cancer, outcomes are more favourable, as the cancer is found earlier. 

Ms Burgess says the review also found that screening led to more positive outcomes for Māori and Pacific women.

“We know that Māori women who are diagnosed with breast cancer are more likely to die from the disease.  This review highlights the importance of getting Māori women involved in the screening programme because it could dramatically reduce their death rates from breast cancer,” Ms Burgess says.

Ms Burgess hopes the review will reinforce the value of the screening programme to successive governments and perhaps prompt them to look at extending the age range for screening. “We now have clear evidence about the effectiveness of the screening programme and we believe there’s a need to expand the age range to women over 70 and to women between 40 and 45.  We hope this is something the Government will now turn its mind to,” Ms Burgess says. 

To read the BSA report click here: https://www.nsu.govt.nz/news/breastscreen-aotearoa-study-breast-cancer-mortality-1999-2011

14 December, 2015



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