Family Planning 'appalled' at hateful comments sent to Kiri Allan following cancer diagnosis

Family Planning says it is "appalled but not surprised" at the slew of hateful comments Kiri Allan received online after sharing her cancer diagnosis.

The Labour MP, who was diagnosed with stage 3 cervical cancer in April, revealed the comments in a Twitter post on Sunday, captioning the screenshots, "Just ya average day on NZ SM [social media]".

One shocking comment published by Allan said Māori women should develop "self-respect" to help their cervical cancer "issues".

"Māori women will assist their cervical cancer issues by abandoning promiscuity rates and developing real self-respect and personal values," they said.

Family Planning chief executive Jackie Edmond says the hateful comments are appalling, but she isn't surprised Allan has received them.

"As a sexual and reproductive health provider we know that double standards around sexual behaviour continue. Men's behaviour is positively acknowledged while women are criticised, blamed and shamed," she says.

"Not only is it wrong and hurtful, we worry that attitudes like this might prevent women coming forward for health care and treatment."

It isn't just negative attitudes expressed online that can prevent women from getting the healthcare they need - Māori women who have bad experiences when accessing care can also be a deterrent in the future.

Selah Hart, chief executive of Auckland-based Māori public health group Hāpai Te Hauora, told The Hui on Monday the poor treatment Māori women receive makes it less likely they'll go back, even if it's for something critical. Even little things like names being pronounced incorrectly can erode trust in the health system.

"When you take a step back and you understand the concepts of whakawhanaungatanga, of understanding how to say your name properly... I've had to personally experience having my name torn apart for 30-something odd years."

Edmond says the situation is compounded when issues of race are included.

"We need to be very clear that we want equity across health care - equity of access to service, equity of access to treatment, and equity of outcome," she says.

"When survival rates for cervical cancer, for instance, are so different for Māori women compared to non-Māori, it is clear that for many, many people our health system is failing to deliver. We can and must do better."

Allan revealed to The Hui on Monday that she has just a 13 percent chance of surviving cancer.

"When I got told that I had cervical cancer, they said for somebody with stage 3C you have a 40 percent chance of survival. As a wāhine Māori, I have about a 13.3 percent chance of survival," she says.

"Do the maths on that. I don't know why that is, how that is, but it's wrong. The disparity is too much, people are dying far too young. This is a korero that needs to happen again and again and again."

Since the introduction of the National Cervical Screening Programme, deaths from cervical cancer have dropped by more than 70 percent. But Māori women continue to have higher rates than non-Māori and are four times more likely to die from cervical cancer.

Allan's diagnosis has renewed calls for the introduction of a self-testing programme for cervical cancer.