Breast Cancer Foundation calls for time off for mammograms

3rd February 2020

The two-hour challenge: Breast Cancer Foundation urges Kiwi bosses to give staff time off work for mammograms

On World Cancer Day (February 4), Breast Cancer Foundation NZ is calling on Kiwi employers to support female workers’ health by giving them time off for mammograms. BCFNZ chair Justine Smyth has emailed 100 notable organisations and leading employers, inviting them to get on board with the idea.

“Mammogram screening rates remain stubbornly low in some communities,” said Ms Smyth. “We have to tackle this gnarly problem in a range of ways – and that’s where employers can play their part.

“We all live such busy lives. By allowing staff time off during work hours to get their mammograms, businesses will be removing one of the barriers to breast screening: time. Just two hours should be enough – about 20 minutes for the mammogram itself and travel time either side of that.”

Breast Cancer Foundation NZ chief executive Evangelia Henderson said a relatively small gesture like this is a win-win: it not only leads to healthier staff, it also shows workers that they are valued. “What’s more, employers will be helping contribute to a reduction in deaths from breast cancer in New Zealand. The earlier breast cancer is detected, the more survivable it is, and mammograms can pick up a lump as small as 2mm – far smaller than a woman can feel it,” she said. “This is a low-cost initiative, which many businesses can easily implement, and the upside is potentially life-saving.”

Breast cancer is the most common cancer for New Zealand women – nine women a day are diagnosed, and one in nine women will be diagnosed in their lifetime. A woman has a 92% chance of surviving 10 years if her cancer is found on a mammogram. That drops to 75% if “finding a lump” is the first sign.

Deaths have dropped by more than 30% since free mammogram screening was introduced through BreastScreen Aotearoa. But 30% of eligible women are not enrolled in the free national screening programme.

The 100 organisations emailed by Ms Smyth include many of New Zealand’s largest employers, but also smaller businesses that are held in high regard by most Kiwis.

“We can’t wait to hear that they’re rising to this challenge,” Mrs Henderson said.

Breast Cancer Facts – NZ

• Early detection is your best protection against breast cancer. You have a 92% chance of surviving 10 years if your cancer was found by regular mammogram.

• That drops to 75% if a lump is the first sign.

• Deaths have dropped by around 30% since free mammogram screening was introduced.

• But 30% of eligible women are not enrolled in the free screening programme.

Who should get regular mammograms?

Because the risk of breast cancer increases with age, BCFNZ recommends women consider having regular mammograms from age 40.

Eligible women can have a free mammogram every two years from 45 to 69 years, and the Government has announced it will progressively increase the age for free breast screening to 74.

Freephone 0800 270 200 to book a mammogram.

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