Every day cancer patients are being failed by our health system as signs of the deadly disease are ignored or misdiagnosed. As a result, lives are being lost. In a five-day series health reporter Emma Russell tells the tragic stories of some of the people who have been let down by the system.
Amy Williams watched her mother die after doctors failed to take her cancer symptoms seriously. A year later her foster nana suffered the same ill treatment.
Her mother Karin Svedlund was given just months to live in 2016 after multiple communication errors caused a year-long delay in her being diagnosed with cancer in her womb.
She had gone to her doctor several times after experiencing abnormal bleeding.
A referral was sent to the hospital for her to see a gynaecologist, as a precaution, but Svedlund never heard back.
"She kept going back to her doctor but mum wasn't a person to push if something was problematic and at that point I didn't know she was sick," Williams' told the Herald.
Several months later Svedlund was rushed to hospital after heavy blood loss and heart pains.
On examination specialists found she had a large mass in her abdomen. Further tests revealed cancer of the lining of her womb and a large ovarian mass. It was terminal and there was nothing doctors could do, Williams said.
"She was living in Hamilton and I live in Southland so it wasn't until she was in hospital she called me and I rushed up.
"It was such a shock and I was so angry."
Eight weeks later, on Williams' 30th birthday and just a week out from her wedding, Svedlund died.
"To know the outcome could have been different if she was picked up earlier and those errors hadn't been made is really hard.
"It made it really hard to want to get married. Mum and I were really close and when she died like that it felt like a part of me was missing," Williams said.
Less than a year later, her foster nana Gail Railton suffered a similar ordeal.
Despite getting regular mammograms, her breast cancer was missed.
She was having pain in her breasts and had an inverted nipple that had changed shape but still her doctor didn't express any concern, Williams said.
Railton's mother, sister and cousin had also all had breast cancer.
"After what we went through with my mum, we fought and got a second opinion, and then a third. Eight months later she got a biopsy and her breast cancer was confirmed."
Luckily, Railton's cancer was treatable and she has been given clearance for a year, although she continues to get regular checks to be sure.
"If we hadn't pushed it may have been a different story," Williams said.
Williams is speaking up in a bid to prompt change.
"It's time we take this issue seriously, nearly every day New Zealanders are dying of cancer when they could be saved and that's just not acceptable," she said.
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Tomorrow: Failings at a primary care level
Wednesday: Unacceptable waiting times
Thursday: The inequalities based on age, income and location
Friday: What needs to happen?