Barbara Pinter (left), of Byron Bay Breast Cancer support group, and Robyn Sparks of the Ballina group, prepare for the breast screening protests.
Barbara Pinter (left), of Byron Bay Breast Cancer support group, and Robyn Sparks of the Ballina group, prepare for the breast screening protests. jay cronan

Street rally to fight cancer

SHE may have beaten breast cancer but Robyn Sparks’ fight to reinstate two mobile BreastScreen vans has only just begun.

Rallies in Ballina and Byron Bay will kick off at noon today to protest at the North Coast Area Health decision to replace two mobile vans with fixed screening sites in Lismore and Tweed Heads in late 2008.

Ms Sparks, facilitator of Ballina Breast Cancer Support Group – whose cancer was detected early – considers herself lucky.

“Fewer vans mean fewer women detected early,” the Ballina resident said.

A lack of adequate public transport into Lismore meant the fixed screening units were ‘not accessible to all women’, she added.

According to Ms Sparks, the aging population of women in Ballina, Byron Bay and Casino had been hit hardest by the axing of mobile screening services.

“One-in-eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer,” she said.

Northern Rivers politicians Janelle Saffin, Don Page and Justine Elliot had all championed the concerns of the Ballina Cancer Support Group, according to Ms Sparks.

Ballina Shire mayor Phillip Silver wrote a letter to NSW Health Minister Carmel Tebbutt about reinstating the mobile service.

In response, Ms Tebbutt backed the North Coast Area Health Service, stating the area had increased its fixed screening units.

“The digital mammography used by the fixed site services improves the chance of detecting an abnormality in its early stages,” the Minister wrote.

“This equipment was installed across North Coast Area Health Service through an allocation of $1 million made by the NSW Government in late 2007.”

Ms Sparks encouraged all concerned to join the rally and sign the petition to re-instate the mobile screening service.

Participants meet at noon at Railway Park, Byron Bay, or outside Ballina District Hospital on Cherry Street.



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