A new study has found Pacific and Māori people are more likely to die from bowel cancer than any other ethnic group in the country.
The PIPER Project study published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, looked at more than 5000 patients, and is the largest and most detailed study of bowel cancer undertaken in New Zealand.
Oncologist Christopher Jackson, the clinical lead on the study, said it found Pacific and Māori people with bowel cancer tended to seek medical help at a later stage, so were treated when the cancer was more advanced.
"We found that the proportion of Māori patients who presented to the Emergency Department is the first time they've presented with bowel cancer.
"They probably would've had some symptoms prior to that point in time but their symptoms hadn't been understood or detected and their cancer had not been diagnosed at an early stage which means their outcomes were worse."
There were many other factors contributing to the poor outcomes of Māori and Pacific patients, he said.
"Some of the factors are likely to be access to primary care services, but we'll know a lot more from a follow-on research project.
"We also know from the bowel cancer screening pilot that Māori have lower rates of engagement with the screening program and that's clearly going to be a priority of the bowel cancer screening program to ensure that Māori have excellent access to bowel cancer screening in order to help Māori be diagnosed at an earlier stage than they are currently."
A follow-on project is underway to identify reasons behind why cancer is detected at a later stage in Māori and Pacific people.