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