A damning new report shows the chances of dying from cancer are still greater in New Zealand than in Australia.
Late diagnosis and poorer access to treatment is being blamed for a 10% higher mortality rate for cancer deaths on this side of the Tasman.
The biggest mortality gaps were for bowel, lung, breast and prostate cancers.
A new Cancer Standards Institute report, published in today’s New Zealand Medical Journal, shows the difference between Australian and NZ mortality rates for colorectal or bowel cancer actually increased in the decade to 2007.
The report’s authors argue that the gap is made worse by Australia having full screening since 2008 while it is still being piloted here for a select few in Waitemata, with no workforce in place for a full roll-out.
“Right now there’s a big difficulty if we were to do exactly what’s happening in Waitemata across the whole of the country,” Health Minister Tony Ryall says.
Peter Dady from the Cancer Standards Institute says it’s going to be at least another six years down the track.
“Given how common this cancer is in our country, it could be considered a disgrace that over the last 15 years nothing has been done to improve the outlook for New Zealanders from this disease,” Dr Dady says.
The Health Minister concedes there’s no quick fix but says major advances have been made since 2007.
“Funding of herceptin for breast cancer, the big campaign to stop smoking, these all contribute to closing that gap with Australia,” Mr Ryall says.
And Dr Dady says while the health minister has overseen improvements, he is being hamstrung.
“He’s prisoner to the bureaucrats and advisory committees…they’re the ones who have failed,” says Dr Dady.