People with rarer cancers face the same poor prognosis of a generation
ago, according to new data.
Cancer Registry data reveals there is a significant divide between survival
outcomes for patients with rare or less common cancers compared to those with
common cancers; and that the divide is growing.
An example is
pancreatic cancer, which 20 years ago had a five-year survival of 3 percent.
Today, a Victorian diagnosed with pancreatic cancer still faces a poor
prognosis with their five-year survival sitting at 6 percent. In contrast, the
five-year survival for all cancers has jumped from 47 percent to 66 percent
over the past two decades.
Victoria CEO Todd Harper said in order to drive a dramatic increase in survival
for all types of cancer there must be significant investment in long-term
research that focuses on high mortality cancers such as those of the pancreas,
brain and ovary.
“We won’t change
this situation overnight. It is going to take a significant investment over the
long haul, as well as genuine collaboration between research bodies – but I
believe we can turn around such poor survival outcomes,” Mr Harper said.
Victoria is calling on the next Victorian government to commit $57.5 million
over five years, beginning with an initial investment of $2.75 million in
“This is an
opportunity for Victoria to lead the nation in our efforts to save more lives,”
Mr Harper said.
More than 1500
Victorians are already backing this call, with 1505 people choosing “surviving
all cancers” as one of their top three cancer priorities in the lead-up to the
November state election.
surveyed 2495 Victorians between July and August this year, and found 60
percent support the push for increased research dollars into rare and less
Erica Ruck, of north-east
Victoria, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at age 60 – the same age that her
mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer some 30 years prior.
“While my story differs from my mother’s in some
aspects, one thing has stayed the same – the very poor prognosis for people
with pancreatic cancer. Nearly as many people die with pancreatic cancer now as
they did in 1982 but no one wants to talk about it.”
Ms Ruck’s mother,
Margaret, died six weeks after her diagnosis was confirmed in 1982. Ms Ruck,
who is now 63, doesn’t want anyone else to face such a situation.
“Pancreatic cancer is nasty because, a little like
ovarian cancer, the symptoms can be vague and people are often not diagnosed
until it’s well advanced. A greater understanding of the disease may lead to
earlier detection, which may improve the outcome for those diagnosed,” she
advocating for change, I feel like I am contributing to finding better outcomes
for others, including my four daughters and my grandchildren. I certainly don't
want them to be lining up for this disease.”