The New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation says the $55.6 million funding announcement for a “major upgrade” to the IT technologies supporting breast screening is an “excellent step forward”.
But, it says the government still has further to go in ensuring the health system can support it.
Traditionally, women have had to opt in for the national programme BreastScreen Aotearoa in order to receive a free mammogram every two years for those aged 45 to 69.
Breast Cancer Foundation CEO Ah-Leen Rayner says with the programme already struggling to keep up with current enrolments, the government needs to consider further funding.
“This important systems upgrade will need to be done in tandem with major investment in staff and equipment, as some regions are already struggling to screen women already enrolled and to maintain Māori participation.”
More than 271,000 women who fit into that criteria are not currently being screened under the outdated system.
Rayner says knowing exactly who is missing out on their free screening is vital.
Otago University’s Associate Dean Māori and Director of Te Rōpū Rangahau Hauora a Eru Pōmare Bridget Robson says the announcement is critical in improving access for Māori and must be prioritised.
“Māori women whose cancer is detected by the screening programme have a smoother, more equitable path through diagnosis and treatment.”
The Associate Dean Māori and Director of Te Rōpū Rangahau Hauora a Eru Pōmare says women who choose to opt off from the breast screening programme should still be given the opportunity to enrol at a later date.
“Self-enrolment in breast screening must remain an option, especially for women who are not enrolled with primary care.”
A further $10 million has been earmarked by Government, allocated to help catch up on screenings missed due to Covid-19 lockdowns and match population growth.
The new system’s due to come into force in 2023.
The Government also announced an up to $53 million investment into a self-testing option for cervical cancer screening.
It’s expected to replace the current smear test that are used for the 1.4 million eligible women between 25 and 69 in age.