Cancer Council outlines priority issues for election

Thursday 10 July, 2014

Cancer Council Victoria has called on all political parties to ensure cancer is a priority health issue heading into November’s election, shining a light on fifteen key areas where the next state government can lead the way in cancer research, treatment and prevention.

Cancer Council Victoria CEO Todd Harper said that with the number of people diagnosed with cancer predicted to rise by half over the next 10 years, from 30,000 to 44,000, it is critical that cancer control continues to be a priority for the Victorian government.

“This year, another 30,000 Victorians will be diagnosed with cancer and 11,000 will die from the disease,” Mr Harper said.

“The next government has both a significant opportunity and obligation to the people of Victoria to ensure that cancer remains on the agenda and that we catch up in areas of cancer control where we are being left behind,” he said.

One of those areas is SunSmart, with the program soon to lose much of its funding in 2016 as VicHealth funding for SunSmart expires.

The SunSmart program has since 1988 prevented more than 100,000 skin cancers and saved more than 1,000 Victorian lives. Now, Cancer Council Victoria calls on all parties to commit to saving SunSmart.

“SunSmart is a proven, cost-saving and loved program that has armed a generation of Victorians with the knowledge of how to protect themselves from our harsh UV radiation, and one of the most insidious cancers, melanoma,” Mr Harper said.

Melbourne woman Kate Riordan, who had a melanoma removed while pregnant with her second child, said her family is a SunSmart family.

“Being SunSmart is a non-negotiable for my kids. As they grow older though I wonder what would happen without a trusted authority like SunSmart around,” Ms Riordan said.

Today two-in-three Victorians will survive cancer five years after diagnosis, a figure which has risen from just 47 percent just 25 years ago. While survival rates among more common cancers are rising, there are some types of cancer with low survival rates, including cancer of the pancreas, brain, ovary and bladder.

Oncologist and Cancer Council Victoria clinical consultant A/Prof Michael Jefford has backed the call for investment in long-term research into high-mortality cancers, which is highlighted as a key issue.

“Research investment in high mortality cancers is imperative if we are to see a major increase in survival for all types of cancer. We know that this sort of dedicated approach works,” Dr Jefford said.

“One example is the Victorian Breast Cancer Research Consortium which helped contribute to five-year survival rates reaching nearly 90 percent for women with breast cancer,” he said.

“If we were to improve survival amongst less common cancers by 5 percent, by 2023 we could save around 335 more lives every year,” he said.

Mr Harper said that it was vital the next government continue the work of recent years and keep cancer in the spotlight.

“We have a strong history in Victoria of leading the way in cancer prevention, research and support. Our prevention campaigns, including Quit and SunSmart, have helped drive down rates of smoking and skin cancer deaths respectively, our research facilities lead the nation and support for regional patients has recently improved with the announcement of additional funding for the Victorian Patient Transport Assistance Scheme.”

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