Understanding what breast cancer is and how it happens was the topic for Healthy Day at the Pā recently at Tuahiwi Marae.

The day was facilitated by Aroha Reriti-Crofts and Dr Hana Royal,who is from Tuahiwi and currently works at Middlemore Hospital in Auckland. She has a personal mission to reduce the number of Māori women with breast cancer, one woman at a time. So where better than to start at home?

Breast cancer has affected both sides of Hana’s whakapapa and she says Māori women can do a lot to reduce the statistics of woman who die from the disease.

“Self-examination and breast-screening are critical but also important is to form communities of support when women are diagnosed to ensure they attend all appointments and get the appropriate follow up treatment,” she says.

Aroha said this was ‘the start for Tuahiwi Marae, and through Healthy day at the Pā we will start a database for all Tūāhuriri women who have had breast cancer and then perhaps other Ngāi Tahu marae will take up the challenge.”

Around 3000 New Zealand women and 20 men are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. The risk of breast cancer increases as women age. Around 75% of all cases occur in women over 50 years.

Māori women have, on average a 33% higher incidence of breast cancer than non-Maori women and are also at greater risk of dying of breast cancer than other New Zealand women.

In addition, data suggests that Māori women are more likely to get breast cancer at a younger age but are 30% less likely to be diagnosed early.

“By increasing the number of Māori women participating in Breast Screen Aotearoa, the national breast cancer detection programme, we hope to reduce breast cancer inequality with the aim to eradicate non-genetic breast cancer amongst Māori altogether’, said Hana.

Aroha and Hana at Healthy Day at the Pā.

Aroha and Hana at Healthy Day at the Pā.