Exclusive: Cancer drug crusader Malcolm Mulholland diagnosed with cancer

Prominent cancer drug crusader Malcolm Mulholland has revealed to Newshub he has himself been diagnosed with cancer. 

His journey through the health system has found deficiencies in cancer care and now his fight for better healthcare is even more personal.

Mulholland has spent his adult life fighting for better healthcare, but now he is having to fight for himself. Just nine months after losing his beloved wife Wiki to breast cancer, the big C has found him.

"To have to go home and tell the children we're facing cancer again, that was a bloody tough conversation," Mulholland told Newshub. 

The 46-year-old was diagnosed with an aggressive prostate cancer in July.

"My number one thought that went through my head when I was diagnosed was, given that we'd just lost Wiki, that I didn't want my children to become orphans," he said.

He's lucky it was picked up early. He spent $40,000 on private robot-assisted surgery and his future is looking much more positive than he thought. In December he'll find out if he's cancer-free - but things very easily could have turned out differently.

"My cancer was picked up purely by chance," he said. "I had no symptoms whatsoever that something was wrong."

If it were not for an underlying condition, they probably wouldn't have found it. He may not have the shot he has today. 

The Ministry of Health screening guidelines date back to 2015 and were supposed to be updated in 2018.

Under ministry guidelines, management only begins if men present with prostate-related problems, so if they're symptomatic. Best practice advocacy suggests men over 50 should be offered testing even if they're asymptomatic.

"The reason for the Cancer Control Agency is we get one common set of guidelines the medical fraternity all understands and knows and applies. That is where we need to get to," said Health Minister Andrew Little.

The Prostate Cancer Foundation said men are slipping through the cracks.

"Men that have been diagnosed with prostate cancer in New Zealand don't have access to the medications they should that would prolong their quality of life and also prolong their life," said chief executive Peter Dickens.

The Cancer Control Agency said it's currently reviewing ministry screening guidelines but didn't give a timeline for that work.

But in the absence of updated early screening protocols, we're more reliant on drugs. The problem once again circles back to medicines funding, which is desperately needed, something Mulholland has said too many times for too many other people.

A GiveALittle for Malcolm Mulholland can be found here.