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'Westie' leading one of New Zealand's most important charities

Updated: Feb 22

Ah-Leen Rayner, the CEO of Breast Cancer Foundation New Zealand, proudly hails from the western suburbs of Auckland, New Zealand's largest city - a proud 'Westie!' She stands as the sole member of her family to pursue higher education, successfully completing a Bachelor of Arts in Biological Anthropology, Grad Diploma Business Marketing and an M.B.A. Ah-Leen's illustrious corporate career spans three decades across diverse sectors.

In early 2021, Ah-Leen made a transition to the charity sector, assuming the role of CEO at Breast Cancer Foundation NZ. Her appointment perfectly aligned with the trustees' vision of having a leader with robust business and commercial experience. Ah-Leen joins Purposely to share her organization's vision, mission, and her personal career journey, from her remarkable tenure at 3M to the unique challenges of leading a charity reliant on fundraising and donations. She emphasises the psychological impact of a cancer diagnosis, the significance of data in the fight against cancer, and the pressing need to reach underserved communities.

The foundation's vision is clear and concise: "zero deaths from breast cancer." However, achieving this vision remains a formidable challenge, despite the remarkable advancements in breast cancer research, treatments, and medicine. Encouragingly, there has been a 34% decrease in the breast cancer mortality rate over the past two decades, signifying tangible progress towards the foundation's vision. The charity's approach revolves around continuously pushing the boundaries of early detection, treatment, and support.


Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer among women in New Zealand and the third most common overall. Approximately one in nine New Zealand women will face breast cancer in their lifetime, with one man diagnosed each fortnight. Most women diagnosed (70%-75%) and those affected by mortality (80%) are aged 50 years or older. While some women face a higher risk due to family history, most cases occur in women without relatives affected by the disease. Even among those with a family history, the majority will never develop breast cancer.


As Breast Cancer Foundation NZ strives for zero deaths from breast cancer, they play an active and vital role in providing education, support, and resources to all New Zealanders, including those in remote areas and ethnic groups with poorer outcomes. Their comprehensive offerings encompass breast awareness, risk assessment, and overall health. The foundation also extends crucial support services to individuals and families affected by breast cancer. Collaborating with healthcare professionals, they provide resources, education, and training to ensure optimal patient care. Additionally, the foundation funds impactful research and advocates for improvements to breast cancer treatment and care


To find out more about breast cancer and the work of the foundation click here

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