Kiwi women are dying from breast cancer twice as fast as those in similar countries

health 07/09/2018

New research has found that Kiwi women are dying twice as fast of breast cancer compared with women in other countries.  

The statistics, published today by the Breast Cancer Foundation NZ, shows the average survival time for a Kiwi with advanced breast cancer is 16 months.

This is compared with two to three years, or more, in countries such as Australia, Germany and France.

The foundation's research manager, Adele Gautier, says the data is the first of its kind for New Zealand. 

Until now, we had no idea how bad things were for New Zealanders whose breast cancer has spread.

"We are very good at treating early breast cancer, world-class in fact. Sadly, the numbers prove the same can't be said once breast cancer spreads."

Advanced breast cancer (ABC) is also known as metastatic, secondary, or stage four breast cancer that that has spread beyond the breast and lymph nodes to another part of the body.

Around 300 Kiwis each year, mainly women, are told they have been diagnosed with ABC.

Once diagnosed, Kiwis seem to receive less treatment than in comparable countries and, up to one-quarter receive no treatment at all. 

Another daming fact from the I'm Still Here report states that the Maori five-year survival rate is abysmal - only five percent compared to a 15 percent survival rate for non Maori people. 

The research also found half of ABC patients receive no chemotherapy, and those who do, are often pushed to the back of the queue.

The Chair of Breast Cancer Foundation NZ's medical advisory committee, Dr Reena Ramsaroop, says the new information is vital for the medical community.

"We did this study because patients were telling us they feel forgotten, and cast aside," she says. 

"No-one wants to think we are falling behind the rest of the world, yet the evidence is clear that this is happening."

The foundation says an urgent change in attitude that sets higher expectations for people with ABC in New Zealand is needed along with new drugs.

Using available treatment options more assertively as well as having access to more treatment is also needed. 

See more from Newshub's Megan Sutherland.