Masterton’s Jaqueline Lumsden is a breast cancer survivor from Wairarapa. PHOTO/FILE

Screening on decline, statistics show

ALEYNA MARTINEZ
aleyna.martinez@age.co.nz

The number of Wairarapa women aged 50-69 screened for breast cancer has not reached Ministry of Health targets, data shows.

It was one of five district health board areas that did not meet the overall coverage target for the two years leading up to March 2020.

Although all ethnic groups in Wairarapa had not met expected screening targets, Pasifika and Maori women recorded the lowest number of screenings in Wairarapa.

Only 55 per cent of Pasifika Wairarapa women were screened in the two-year period – the second lowest rate in New Zealand – and 65.6 per cent of Maori women in Wairarapa were screened.

Breast Screen Aotearoa is a national public screening programme funded by the government to offer free mammography every two years to women aged 50-69.

Its target is to screen 70 per cent of women in the age group because they are classed the most at-risk group for developing breast cancer.

Masterton’s Jaqueline Lumsden, 52 was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016 after she found a bruise on her breast “that would not heal”.

In December 2015, she was cleared for cancer by [BSA].

“Screening doesn’t pick up everything – it picks up some, but not everything”, she said.

“Thermal imaging is the way to go but it’s expensive and not everybody can do it.”

Lumsden said after being scanned and cleared in December 2015, she would not be expected to have another scan again until 2017.

Luckily, in January 2016, a radiologist at Upper Hutt advised her to go for a biopsy.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer on April 7, 2016 and her breasts were removed on May 12.

“The moral of the story is that if you notice any changes, anything that happens with your breast – even if you are going to screenings – don’t wait for the next two years to go to the doctor and be checked again.”

A clean bill of health does not mean you are in the clear she said.

“I had a clean bill of health; I had a clear screen.”

“What we can do as individuals is just learn to not be frightened of the system.”

Ministry of Health statistics showed that BSA was meeting screening targets for all ethnicities in 2018.

The Wairarapa Cancer Society referred the Times-Age to the Ministry of Health for comment.

The Ministry of Health did not respond by time of publication.