16 Dec 2013
By Wright Communications
The review of AYA cancer in New Zealand - the first of its kind to be undertaken in this country - has identified troubling statistics on New Zealand survival rates when compared to other first world nations and highlights the need for action.
According to the report, there is a significant lag in five-year survival rates for AYA cancer patients in New Zealand, particularly in certain age ranges and ethnic groups, when compared to countries like the USA, Canada, Australia and Scotland. The report shows that the New Zealand five-year relative survival rate for the 15-24 age group (80.6%) was significantly lower than reported by the European EUROPCARE group (87.4%).
Most significant is the survival rate for Māori and Pacific patients, which is lower than other ethnicities. The report shows that the five-year relative survival for adolescents and young adults aged 15-24 was significantly lower for Māori (69.5%) and Pacific Peoples (71.3%) than non-Māori / Pacific Peoples (84.2%).
Patients aged 15-19 appear to do worse than younger patients and patients over 20, and some cancer types are showing poorer than expected outcomes. The report shows that the overall five-year relative survival for adolescents aged 15-19 years was 75.1%, which is significantly lower than the 84.6% for survival for young adults and 80.7% survival for children aged 0-14 years.
David Pearce, CanTeen Chief Executive, is a member of the AYA Advisory Group that developed the report. He says the findings of the group leave him with mixed emotions.
"The good news is that the group has been able to develop clear recommendations for a path to improvement in services. The further good news is that the Minister has largely given the green light to these. But what is emotionally hard to hear and frankly impossible to accept is that more young Kiwis are dying of their cancer than needs to be the case."
Rachel Allan, 22, National President of CanTeen and Bereaved Sibling Member, comments that it has been widely acknowledged internationally that AYA patients can fall between the gaps within established health systems. She also adds that young people's needs are different and not always well understood.
"I can't accept or ignore how things are today for young people my age that are living with cancer in New Zealand. The new measures announced by the Minister will serve as a good start. It is clear we all have some work ahead of us to get to a position we are all proud of. Within this work, CanTeen has the unique opportunity to ensure that young voices continue to be heard."
CanTeen acknowledges that the 180 to 200 cancer diagnoses in our age group per year represent only a small proportion of all cancer diagnoses in New Zealand. "That might sound like a small number to some but to me that is a number that matters enormously." says Rachel.
"I know it matters to their parents, their siblings and to the hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who support CanTeen in the work we do. I'm sure we all agree they deserve a fighting chance."
Mr Pearce cautions that the review report does not yet answer why New Zealand's survival rates are lower than they should be. The next phase of the AYA cancer group is to get those answers.
"This is not going to be easy work for anyone. If it were, we wouldn't have survival stats behind those of our international peers. It's going to require the active and co-ordinated attention of many players in the health and community support sectors. We will all need to work in unison and account to the new AYA cancer lead group. The real power to improving things lies in an acceptance that change is essential and then combining our talents in service to these young people, to do what it takes. CanTeen is absolutely and unequivocally committed to that process."
Give us a call, send us a message or call in and see us. We’d love to hear from you.