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Call for nationwide access to film that helps to prevent radiation damage

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BCAC is pushing for a special silicon dressing that helps to reduce skin damage during radiation therapy to be used nationwide.

The silicon film, called Mepitel film, is placed over the area to be irradiated and can reduce skin reactions to radiation therapy by more than 90 per cent, according to a study carried out by Otago University.

BCAC understands the film is available to all patients in Wellington and selected patients in Auckland, but patients in other regions have to pay for the special dressing.

BCAC chair, Libby Burgess, says that’s not good enough.

“We can’t have this “post code lottery” for cancer care. A New Zealand study has clearly demonstrated the benefits of Mepitel film during radiation treatment and we’d like to see it publicly funded for women in all parts of the country,” she says.

The Rotorua Breast Cancer Trust backs that call. Trustee Dell Gee says several women in Rotorua have approached her about the special dressing, which costs about $72 for a pack of ten.

“We know that there will be a good number of our community who just can’t fund that amount. Some may be able to, but it just adds to the financial burden that a breast cancer diagnosis brings.

“It’s enough that patients in Rotorua have to be off work while they are in Hamilton each week for treatment. We really want to see this accessible to all who will benefit,” Dell says.

The Otago University study found that the Mepitel film reduced radiation-induced skin reactions by 92 per cent. It also found that none of the patients who used the silicone film went on to develop weeping wounds known as moist desquamation, whereas around a quarter of patients who had radiation therapy without the film developed this complication.

Libby says BCAC will raise the issue with the Minister of Health, Dr Jonathan Coleman, and highlight the need for to equitable access to cancer treatments across the country.

Find out more about the Otago University study on Mepitel film here.

10 March 2016