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Cancer detection too late

Keith Marshall, the former manager of Lakehouse Cafe in Masterton, has terminal bowel cancer. PHOTO/FILE

TE ANIWA HURIHANGANUI

A Wairarapa patient with terminal bowel cancer is backing calls for the government to screen patients earlier before it’s too late.

New Zealand does not screen people aged 50 to 59, despite them making up 12 per cent of those with bowel cancer, and 22 per cent of all Maori with the disease.

Keith Marshall, a former flight attendant and manager of a supermarket and cafe, was diagnosed with colorectal cancer seven years ago.

He was 58 at the time, two years shy of the national screening age for bowel cancer in New Zealand.

The father of two and granddad of four has been in and out of hospital for treatment ever since, but last month things took a turn.

“On January 20 this year, I was admitted to Wairarapa Hospital and everything started to go bad because, through the cancer returning – and it came back the second time as being terminal and stage four – it grew on my spine and I’ve lost the use of my legs,” he said.

“It’s quite aggressive at this stage. I’ve been given four months to live.”

Marshall is backing calls by Bowel Cancer NZ for the government to provide anyone aged 50 and over access to bowel screening by 2025.

He said while it was too late for patients like him, the government could still do the right thing.

“The point I’m trying to make is that if it could be caught a lot earlier, it would be fantastic, for Maori in particular.

“Lower it as much as you can, save as many people as you can.”

More than 1000 New Zealanders die from bowel cancer every year, and more than 3000 are diagnosed.

Bowel Cancer NZ spokeswoman Sarah Derrett said Maori were most at risk of getting the disease.

“A greater proportion of Maori experience bowel cancer in that 50 to 60-year age group and so by screening from age 60 and above they are being served poorly,” she said.

“We specifically want screening lowered to age 50 and above immediately for Maori.

“New Zealand has among the world’s worst death rate from colorectal cancer.

“That harm is falling unfairly on Maori New Zealander.

“That’s not good enough, so we need to address this with urgency.”

Marshall has not given up his fight in hospital and is getting by with help from his family.

“I have two sons and four beautiful grandchildren,” he said.

“In Australia we’ve got Anaru, he’s the oldest, and he’s coming over to see his granddad in the next month.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better family, in particular my daughter-in-law Susie.

“She works at the facility that I’ve been placed in now for the remainder of my days, but I’m not finished yet, no way.”

– rnz.co.nz

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