Breast cancer in Maori and Pasifika women

For BCAC, the care of our Māori and Pacific women with breast cancer is of great concern because we are seeing some disturbing statistics.

Recent Ministry of Health reports show that Māori women are 21 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, 30 per cent less likely to be diagnosed early (1) and 72 per cent more likely to die from breast cancer than non-Māori (2). Other data suggests Māori women tend to get breast cancer at a younger age(3).   Pasifika women also have higher rates of breast cancer than Pākehā/European women.

In order to detect breast cancers when they are in an early stage and curable, BreastScreen Aotearoa aims to provide mammograms to 70 per cent of New Zealand women between the ages of 45 and 69. But far lower percentages of Māori and Pasifika women are screened when compared with other ethnic groups.

Because of the higher breast cancer risk, it is very important that Māori women access regular and timely screening services to ensure routine monitoring which can offer the best chance of detecting any breast cancers early.  For more information on the free screening programme for New Zealand women aged 45 to 69 please visit our page on BreastScreen Aotearoa.

BCAC is developing networks to consult with Māori and Pasifika women to identify key issues that could make a positive difference. We see Aotearoa New Zealand’s Cancer Control Action Plan as providing opportunities for targeted programmes to be established and funded to close the gaps. BCAC’s networks tell us that such initiatives can be effective in improving outcomes for Māori and Pasifika women with breast cancer if they are designed, established and administered by women within their own communities.

For more information on support available for Maori and Pasifika women, see Maori and Pasifika support.

References:

(1) Unequal Impact: Māori and non-Māori Cancer Statistics 1996-2001, Robson, Purdie & Cormack, 2006 www.moh.govt.nz
(2) Tracking Disparity: Trends in ethnic and socioeconomic inequalities in mortality, 1981-2004, Blakley, T., Tobias, M., Atkinson, J, Yeh, L-C., & Huang, K. 2007, www.moh.govt.nz
(3) McCredie, M., Skegg, C., Paul, D.C.G, and Williams, S. 1999, Breast cancer in Māori and non-Māori women, International Journal of Epidemiology 28: 189-195