The disparity between the treatment of Māori and non-Māori cancer patients is a key talking point at an international indigenous symposium on cancer in Wellington.

Janis Awatere, a widow of a cancer victim who says her husband’s care and journey through terminal cancer could’ve been handled better.

“We could have been treated a whole lot better. Yep, culturally, we were treated insensitively, we thought.”

Her husband, Potene Awatere, died four years ago and Awatere says the hospital wasn’t culturally sensitive.

“They did his washing of himself with his stuff on the table, and they would bring his food straight on there, which is really culturally insensitive.”

But she says the worst part was the time it took to get her husband into the hospice to live his final days.

“We wanted him to die with some dignity.”

At this indigenous symposium on cancer, one of the main talking points was getting prevention and knowing signs of symptoms out to families.

Sue Crengle of Otago University says being assertive is key.

“If you feel that you're not being listened to and you're not being taken seriously, go back again. And just keep going, go with whānau support, keep going until you feel like you're being taken seriously.”

Tira Albert from Māori health programme, Kōkiri Hauora says more funding could go a long way to helping families deal with cancer prevention and treatment.

“It would be great if we had more funding so that we could do more education programmes around prevention.”

For now putting their minds together sharing ideas is a way to help ease what is an endless workflow.

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