A woman who lost both her parents to cancer wouldn't have discovered a potentially life-threatening lump in her breast if she didn't have an adverse reaction to a Covid jab.
She is one of the 133 New Zealand women estimated to not know they have breast cancer due to the delays in screening disrupted by Covid, which the Herald reported back in October.
It comes as Act deputy leader Brooke van Velden has been pushing Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall for answers about advice she has been given on addressing the growing problem and figures around the extent of the backlog.
Answers to van Velden's parliamentary questions was due yesterday but were yet to be given.
Meanwhile, Kim Anderson, 46, was still waiting to find out if her 5cm lump was breast cancer. With her family history, the risk was high, she said.
"My nana had breast cancer, my mum died of lymphoma last year which went to her breasts as well, three of my aunties on my dad's side have had breast cancer, and my dad died of cancer too."
Anderson was booked in for her first routine mammogram in Christchurch back in August but due to lockdowns her appointment was cancelled.
"I had a bad reaction to the vaccine and had shortness of breath, so I was booked in for a CT scan to check my lungs, and the lump was picked up on that," Anderson told the Herald.
She was booked in for surgery on December 16, as further investigation was needed.
It was "just by lucky chance" that it was picked up in that CT scan, because she still hadn't been rebooked for her mammogram, she said.
"Who knows how long it would have been before I got my mammogram appointment," Anderson said.
Anderson is one of the very small minority of New Zealanders to have had reported serious adverse reactions to the Covid-19 vaccine. More than seven million doses have been administered in New Zealand and only 0.019 per cent (1462 up to November 20) have resulted in a serious adverse effect.
She said the mammogram appointments were imperative for women like herself and the backlog was horrific.
"Some of these cancers are aggressive and move quickly."
Anderson's story comes after the Herald revealed in October a harrowing warning from the Breast Cancer Foundation: that more than 133 New Zealand women could die of a breast cancer they don't yet know they have unless the Government takes urgent action.
The foundation rolled out a nationwide campaign to combat months of backlog putting a deadly strain on the screening programme.
That turned into a petition signed by 10,500 people from across the country calling on the Government to ensure access to life-saving mammograms and to keep it's promise to extend free screening to age 74.
BCFNZ's chair Justine Smyth and chief executive Ah-Leen Rayner are today handing over the petition to van Velden to who will fight for it in parliament.
The deputy Act leader and health spokeswoman said so many other health issues had taken a back seat and the "cost of Covid would haunt us for decades, financially, emotionally and with our health and education."
"These women [who don't know they have breast cancer] are someone's grandmother, mother, sister, daughter or wife. It's heartbreaking."
She said it was her privilege to accept this petition today on behalf of the Breast Cancer Foundation and the 10,600 people who signed it. Act would continue to fight for a well-rounded health system that focuses on more than just Covid-19.
Back in October, Verrall said Budget 2021 invested up to $55.6 million to upgrade the breast cancer screening system to reduce the number of people who die from this disease.
Another $10 million was earmarked in Budget 2021 to match population growth and catch up on breast screens missed due to lockdowns, Verrall said.
She said National Screening Unit was working on a number of initiatives to increase participation by significantly reducing barriers to screening, particularly for Māori and Pacific women who had lower rates of screening.
This include different funding models, co-design work with Māori and Pacific women, and the use of mobile screening units which can travel to remote communities, Verrall said.
The Ministry of Health continued to review international evidence around extending the age range for breast cancer screening, she said.