In the early 1990s a group of five New Zealand doctors felt the urgent need to educate women that early detection of breast cancer can save lives. It was time for the conversation about breast cancer to be out in the open - rather than a subject women were embarrassed to talk about.

In 1994, they established The New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation, with the launch of its first annual October Pink Ribbon Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign 

Evelyn Lauder of Estée Lauder Companies launched the first Pink Ribbon Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign in the United States in 1992 and Estée Lauder Companies throughout the world, including NZ also took up the breast cancer awareness cause.

Since then, breast cancer outcomes have improved dramatically, thanks to education about breast cancer signs and early detection, along with the introduction of NZ's mammogram screening programme, earlier diagnosis, and advances in treatment.

Here are some of the milestones The NZBCF is proud to have been involved, through our funding of research, our education programmes and our advocacy:

• Screening rates of women over 70% in the 45-69 age group

• Five-year survival is 86% (up by 24% since 1994) and 96% if breast cancer is detected in a screening mammogram. 

• Improvements in treatments, including new equipment and better access to nationally-funded drugs

• Improvement in our knowledge base – The NZBCF has funded breast cancer patient registers since 2000, spending more than $5 million in operational costs and research. The data in these registers allow us to monitor care and outcomes for breast cancer patients regionally and against international best practice

• Improved support for women with breast cancer – through our 0800 helpline for breast cancer support from our breast cancer nurse. Through funding counselling services for patients nationally, providing rehabilitation support programmes, and supporting women through partner support networks, including services for those living with advanced/terminal breast cancer.