BCAC welcomes report's recommendations on breast screening

The Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC) says women can have confidence in the country’s breast screening programme and must continue to use it.

The call follows the release of the Report of the National Panel to Review Breast Biopsy Errors, which examined recent serious errors in breast biopsy analysis.

As a result of these errors, several women endured unnecessary invasive medical treatment, while others did not get the treatment they required until the errors were recognised.

The report of the National Panel made several recommendations to ensure errors such as this do not happen again, including:

  •    the use of technology to standardise laboratory processes to minimise errors
  •     improved reporting of serious and sentinel events
  •     better collaboration between laboratories on quality initiatives
  •     nationally consistent processes for supporting patients affected by serious errors.

BCAC chair, Libby Burgess, says the biopsy errors were tragic and life-changing for the women involved, but she welcomes the report’s recommendations.

“The breast screening programme protects New Zealand women and ensures that fewer of us die from breast cancer, so we welcome any suggestions to improve it.

“BCAC will be monitoring this situation and making sure the report’s recommendations are implemented because New Zealand women rely on these pathologists to diagnose breast cancer properly.”

Ms Burgess says the number of errors identified is small considering the many thousands of women who are screened annually. She says women shouldn’t lose faith in the system.

“What has happened for these women is terrible and we hope they will be suitably recompensed, but all New Zealand women must continue to have faith in the screening system.

“It is indisputable that the best way to detect breast cancer early is through a regular mammogram screening programme, combined with breast awareness and action when women notice any changes.
“Women must continue to engage with the programme because finding breast cancer early saves lives."

You can view the report of th eNational Panel to Review Breast Biopsy Errors here.

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