New Zealand’s Breast Cancer Foundation has welcomed an announcement from the National Party to extend free breast screening for women by five years but wants all parties to support the move.
National’s health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti and women’s spokesperson Nicola Grigg made the announcement this afternoon.
Reti said the screening age in New Zealand - currently up to 69 years, is five years behind other countries such as Australia, Canada and the US.
“Extending the breast cancer screening age will mean that over a lifetime, the number of free mammograms a woman can have will increase from 18 to 20. This will have the potential to save up to 65 lives per year.”
“This change will keep New Zealand up with international best practice and will result in saving the lives of more women,” Reti said.
Breast Cancer Foundation New Zealand (BCFNZ) chair Justine Smyth said politicians must follow suit.
“We want all other political parties to make the same commitment, because breast cancer cruelly takes too many women from us,” Smyth said in a statement.
“This is an important commitment that will categorically save the lives of our mums, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, and aunties,” she said.
“A woman’s risk of breast cancer is higher at 70 than it is at 50 and mammograms are key to early detection, especially for Māori and Pacific women who have poorer survival rates. We’ve long been advocating for women aged 70 to 74 to be included in the national breast cancer screening programme and we’re pleased to see that National has been listening.”
National Party leader Christopher Luxon spoke in his home electorate of Botany in Auckland today alongside Grigg, and said the cost of the extension was “really reasonable”.
“It’s about $21 million to extend it for five extra years that we are looking for here, over a four-year period.”
Luxon said National has been “discussing aspects of our health policy as we gear up for election next year” and said the decision led by Reti and Grigg was “simple, pragmatic and would make a big difference”.