OPINION: More action needed in fight against cancer

New Zealanders suffering from cancer shouldn’t have to raise money online or sell their family home to be able to buy life-saving medicines.

Too many Kiwis battling cancer have been let down by successive governments and an underfunded health system that’s failed to provide them with the standard of treatment they deserve.

Sitting in the middle of the two major parties enables me to support good policy, regardless of who came up with it.

Just as the Government’s commitment to invest $1.9 billion toward mental health initiatives was welcome news for the health sector, so is the National Party’s pledge to establish an independent cancer agency and put $200 million towards new cancer drugs.

There’s an urgent need to increase investment in cancer treatment because the vast majority of Kiwis will know someone who had or has the disease.

Let’s hope MPs are willing to work together in the national interest on this matter. There is no party politics to be played when it comes to saving lives.

The facts around New Zealand’s cancer rates are startling. More Kiwis die from some form of cancer each year than from anything else.

We have the world’s worst rate of deaths from malignant skin melanoma and the worst rates of new cases of leukemia.

So any new funding aimed at lowering New Zealand’s shocking cancer rates should be welcomed.

We must also make it easier for people to access specialist care when needed, and our public health system would benefit from increased transparency and accountability.

All too often we hear stories about Kiwis who have visited their doctor with concerning symptoms only to be told they don’t have cancer.

After their symptoms worsen and their suffering increases, they’re then referred to a specialist who diagnoses them with terminal cancer. By then it’s too late.

Too often we hear stories of a doctor who missed the cancer in the first place, yet can hide behind anonymity.

There needs to be stronger accountability in place for medical practitioners who repeatedly misdiagnose their patients.

The stakes are too high for medical professionals to get these sorts of things wrong again and again.

  • Jami-Lee Ross, MP for Botany