About 40% of Maori and Pacific people with bowel cancer only found out they have the disease when they require emergency hospital care, according to new information released by the Health Quality and Safe Commission in late June 2016.
The data is provided by the commission in the form of an online Atlas of Healthcare Variation, for bowel cancer.
Of immediate concern to Bowel Cancer New Zealand (BCNZ) are the high proportions of Maori (28%) and Pacific people (25%) with more advanced bowel cancer at the time of diagnosis (compared to 21% overall), and also the much higher proportions of Maori and Pacific being diagnosed.
Key findings include that about a quarter of people with bowel cancer were diagnosed following a visit to a hospital emergency department, backing similar findings released last year in the Piper study.
However, 39% of Maori and 41% of Pacific people were diagnosed following presentation to an emergency department.
National Bowel Cancer Working Group chair Ian Bissett, an Auckland colorectal cancer researcher, said that was disappointing.
"It's disappointing to find this variation and to me what we need to be looking at is improving equity across service and care for patients right across the country. What we do see is variation between DHB [district health board] populations related to the demographics of their own DHB as well."
Bowel cancer is the most commonly reported cancer in New Zealand, with approximately 3000 cases and 1200 deaths a year.
Today's data showed that for a quarter of people the cancer was contained to the place where it had started, but for one in five it had spread to distant parts of their body by the time of the diagnosis.
Professor Bissett, a colorectal cancer researcher and surgeon, said the data contained in the Atlas was a major advance.
"I'm very excited that starting from national data sets we're able to produce quality measures of treatment across the country, indexed by DHB population that tell us how we're doing at present."