National | Māori

Māori men are being 'let down': Prostate Cancer Foundation

Photo / Prostate Cancer Foundation NZ

New Zealand men - especially, Māori men - are being "let down" by Pharmac, the Prostate Cancer Foundation NZ says.

"It’s not just an inability to allocate sufficient funds. Approval of treatment options is lagging as well. Across all prostate cancer types, our men are being let down," Prostate Cancer Foundation NZ CEO Peter Dickens said in a statement Saturday.

Dickens says compared to their Australian counterparts, New Zealand men are being disadvantaged, have less options and are likely dying earlier as a result.

Māori men are significantly worse off, says Auckland Hospital's Dr Peter Fong, a consultant medical oncologist.

“In Aotearoa we are also seeing Māori men being disproportionately disadvantaged. Māori men have significantly poorer survival outcomes with a prostate cancer mortality rate over 1.5 times higher than non-Māori.

"Why? Inequities and other factors mean that Māori men are more at risk of having their cancer detected at a later stage when it is more advanced. They then do not have access to the drugs that can treat it and make a difference to these statistics.”

Dickens says two courses of action would make a major difference.

The first is better and more equitable access to testing and early detection of the disease. The second is faster funding approval and access to medicines proven to extend men’s lives, prevent disease progression and provide better quality of life.

“Access to, and funding of, medicines that reduce the risk of men developing metastases and dying is critical. And for thousands of men it would mean delaying being able to spend more time with their families and friends."

The Prostate Cancer Foundation is supporting a petition that includes a call for a prostate cancer screening programme similar to that for breast cancer for women.