Men urged to get checked

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By MONICA TISCHLER

Richard He­taraka is us­ing na­tive New Zealand plants to help keep his prostate can­cer at bay.

The 47-year-old was di­ag­nosed in 2010 and has since used tra­di­tional Maori medicine known as ron­goa in con­junc­tion with pre­scribed med­i­ca­tion to shrink the dis­ease, which had also spread to his spine.

‘‘After speak­ing with my spe­cial­ist I de­cided to brew the leaves of kawakawa to make a tea twice a day which cleanses the blood,’’ he says.

The father of five has been able to rid the can­cer in his spine and con­tain it just to the prostate.

This month is Blue Septem­ber, the Prostate Can­cer Foun­da­tion’s na­tional aware­ness cam­paign urg­ing men to take ac­tion by im­prov­ing life­style choices and get­ting reg­u­lar check­ups.

After his di­ag­no­sis Mr He­taraka joined the New Zealand Prostate Can­cer Foun­da­tion and reg­u­larly at­tends a group where he en­cour­ages other men, es­pe­cially Maori and Pa­cific Is­lan­ders to lis­ten to their bod­ies. He says Maori and Pa­cific Is­land men in par­tic­u­lar are tight-lipped about health is­sues.

‘‘As a Maori I know how hard it is to share things but it’s good to be able to have the knowl­edge to pass on to oth­ers,’’ he says.

Prostate can­cer

oc­curs when cells in the prostate gland be­come can­cer­ous, form­ing a tu­mour.

The cause of it isn’t fully un­der­stood but the chances of de­vel­op­ing the can­cer in­crease with age. Smok­ing and diet are also linked.

Statis­tics re­leased by the Min­istry of Health show that prostate is the third most com­mon can­cer, with more than 2000 cases re­ported in 2009.

It’s also the third most com­mon death for males, re­sult­ing in more than 500 deaths in 2009, many of which could have been pre­vented by early de­tec­tion and healthy life­style choices.

Den­nis Terry is the sup­port co-or­di­na­tor for the group Mr He­taraka at­tends and says prostate can­cer af­fects Maori and Pa­cific Is­lan­ders in a more detri­men­tal man­ner.

‘‘Statis­tics tend to show it doesn’t get picked up as early as it does with other eth­nic­i­ties and it’s in more of an ag­gres­sive form,’’ he says.

Mr Terry says it’s im­por­tant for men aged 50 years and over to visit a doc­tor to get a prostate spe­cific anti­gen blood test which in­di­cates whether there’s can­cer.

Men with a fam­ily his­tory of can­cer should go at 40 years.

Photo: MONICA TISCHLER

Of­fer­ing sup­port: Richard He­taraka, 47, was di­ag­nosed with prostate can­cer in 2010 and is now help­ing oth­ers through a sup­port group.

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