Nat plan to fight gynaecological cancers

National has announced a policy to address late diagnosis and poor survival rates for women with gynaecological cancers:

National is pledging $20 million to protect women from gynaecological cancer through greater awareness, improved clinical guidelines, increased testing and greater access to clinical trials, National Party Leader Judith Collins and National’s spokesperson for Rural Communities and Women Barbara Kuriger say.

Every year in New Zealand more than 1000 women are diagnosed with, and over 475 die, from gynaecological cancer.

This investment is alongside National’s commitment to fund an independent Cancer Agency and set up a $200 million fund dedicated to cancer drugs.

“As an ambassador for the New Zealand Gynaecological Cancer Foundation this has special significance to me. Too many women are going untested and undiagnosed at the moment,” Ms Collins says.

“The sad reality is that most New Zealand families will be affected by cancer. Cancer doesn’t discriminate when it chooses its victims and people shouldn’t have reduced access to treatment just because they live in the country.

“The signs and symptoms of gynaecological cancer are difficult to determine so we will be promoting even greater awareness so women can get themselves diagnosed as soon as possible. National will provide a funding boost to awareness campaigns to ensure this happens.

“We will work with health professionals to maintain up-to-date clinical guidelines that give them the resources to identify gynaecological cancer earlier and make the best decisions around diagnosis and referring women for testing.”

This is just the first announcement in our strong plan to provide better health outcomes for rural communities,” Ms Kuriger says.

“Farming is a stressful and sometimes isolating profession. It can be all too easy to neglect your personal health needs when you’re running a farm, so we want to make care easy and accessible.

“The increased awareness and improved clinical guidelines will lead to more women being tested, and we will provide increased funding to ensure every woman in New Zealand who needs a test is given one.

“National is focused on providing better outcomes closer to home for Kiwi families and communities. This funding will save lives and ensure New Zealand women are getting the care they deserve.”

The Q&A on gynaecological cancers says:

How many women are diagnosed with Gynaecological cancer at the moment?
• Currently, around 1,000 women a year are diagnosed with one of the five gynaecological cancers each year in New Zealand.
How many women die from Gynaecological cancer at the moment?
• Currently, around 475 women are lost to gynaecological cancer each year in New Zealand.
How many more tests are needed?
• Because too many women aren’t aware of the symptoms of gynaecological cancer, and so aren’t presenting for tests, we simply don’t know the size of the unmet need. That’s why our first priority is to increase awareness.
• The funding provided will ensure that the additional demand for tests can be met. If more women are getting tested, and diagnosed earlier, then we will consider this policy a success.
Is this enough?
• It’s not about the amount of money, it’s about spending it right. We know that the evidence says that awareness is an issue and so that’s the issue we want to address.
What kind of tests will be funded?
• There are five different kinds of gynaecological cancer and there are various different tests that can be used for diagnosis. For ovarian cancer this includes ultrasound and the CA-125 blood test.
• We don’t want to pre-empt the development of updated clinical guidelines by determining what kinds of tests are needed, or how many more women will be receiving them, but we do want to ensure that every woman has timely access to the tests they need.
How many more women will be tested as a result of this?
• It’s hard to say because the issue is that too many women are going untested and undiagnosed at the moment.
• The important thing is that women are aware of the symptoms of gynaecological cancer, that they are consulting their GPs in a timely manner, and that where appropriate GPs are referring women for testing.
• National will ensure that the money for increased testing is available, as this is ultimately about saving lives.

Full details are here.

My daughter has low grade serous ovarian cancer, a rare form of the disease which is frequently incurable.

She had been to doctors for two years with symptoms before she was diagnosed.

Her story is far too common because too many women don’t know the symptoms, it’s difficult to diagnose and like four of the five different gynaecological cancers and only cervical cancer it can’t be detected by a smear.

This policy will improve awareness, educate health professionals, increase testing and access to clinical trials.

Six New Zealand women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each week and four New Zealand women die of the disease each week.

Unlike breast cancer which has much better survival rates, the prognosis for women with ovarian cancer hasn’t improved in decades.

One reason for that is that women with ovarian cancer are often diagnosed late and are too ill, or don’t survive, to advocate.

That isn’t an argument to reduce funding for breast cancer initiatives. It is a reason to put a much greater effort into raising awareness, testing and improving access to clinical trials, which this policy aims to do so that women with ovarian, and other gynaecological cancers have the much better chance of survival that women with breast cancer do.

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