Cancer Council Victoria has welcomed a focus on cancer in the state budget.
The Victorian Government has committed to a number of cancer screening and treatment services, including $20 million for additional breast cancer screening across new and existing services and $1.2 million for catch-up vaccinations against the Human Papillomavirus for young Victorians.
Cancer Council Victoria CEO, Mr Todd Harper, said the investment in these areas was crucial considering the post-pandemic environment Victorians now face, and the catch-up appointments needed after two years of missed screening and other health appointments.
“It will take some time to address delayed cancer diagnoses and the needs of people with cancer, but we acknowledge the steps taken in this budget.
“Cancer screening saves lives - it is one of the most effective ways to detect the early signs of cancer, when successful treatment is more likely. In Victoria alone, there has been an estimated 6,600 undiagnosed cancers between April 2020 and March 2022.
“Thousands of Victorian teens missed out on HPV vaccination over the last two years due to COVID-19 restrictions, however efforts to catch-up are crucial if we’re to remain on track to eliminate cervical cancer by 2030.
“This investment along with an increased health workforce will support oncology health workers to deliver their programs more effectively, particularly with the impact of delayed diagnoses which they now face,” Mr Harper said.
“We will need to be innovative if we are to address these problems at a time of workforce constraints.”
Mr Harper also welcomed the investment in hospital upgrades and equipment for regional hospitals and rural services, including $17 million to strengthen palliative care services in rural and regional areas, and $11 million for new linear radiotherapy accelerators in Traralgon, Ballarat and Geelong.
“We know those who live in rural or remote areas face greater risk of dying within five years of cancer compared to those living in urban areas, so addressing this gap with state-of-the-art equipment and high-quality cancer care is crucial.
“This investment in regional areas and growth corridors will improve cancer outcomes for more Victorians and help people access care close to home,” Mr Harper added.
The significant investment in health in this budget, including $698 million for Better at Home services and $372 million towards increasing the capacity of the mental health workforce would further support Victorians experiencing or recovering from cancer. Serious illness affects our mental health. After cancer diagnosis and treatment, distress may range from normal fear, worry or sadness to severe anxiety, depression and despair. COVID-19 has led to a surge in demand for mental health services and long-term investment will be vital to ensure people can access the support they need.
“People affected by cancer who contact us through our 13 11 20 telephone support line, tell us they wish they had known about our service earlier,” Mr Harper said.
“As the leading cancer support organisation in Victoria, Cancer Council is uniquely placed to partner with the Victorian Government to provide relief to people affected by cancer regardless of cancer type, where they live or where they are treated.”