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Equitable care for all Victorians

As an independent, not-for-profit organisation, Cancer Council Victoria plays a leading role in reducing the impact of all cancers on all people.

While Victoria has some of the best cancer survival outcomes in the world, there are still differences in cancer treatment, care and survival and the burden of cancer is not evenly spread.

The following Victorians have poorer cancer outcomes:

  • Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders
  • Culturally and linguistically diverse communities
  • Those living with a disability
  • People experiencing socio-economic disadvantage
  • Regional and rural communities

Working with community members, researchers, clinicians and the Victorian Government, we’re working to tip the scales in achieving equity in cancer prevention, care, and survival.

Victorian Cancer Plan 2020-2024

The  Improving Cancer Outcomes Act 2014 requires the Victorian Government to prepare a cancer plan every four years.

The Victorian Cancer Plan 2020-2024 identifies priorities to prevent cancer, increase survival, improve the experience of the cancer treatment and care system, and achieve equitable outcomes for all Victorians with cancer.

As part of our ongoing policy and advocacy work, in 2019 we made a submission to the Victorian Government’s next cancer plan.

Our submission

To inform our submission, we consulted more than 600 community members, researchers and clinicians across Victoria through workshops, teleconferences and online surveys.

We were pleased to see many of the themes from our submission reflected in the new Cancer Plan. Read our media release in response to the Victorian Cancer Plan here.

Thank you to everyone that contributed to our submission in support of Victorians affected by cancer.

Our submission covers the systemic reforms and investment required to achieve population-wide behavioural changes, and improvements in the treatments and care offered to all Victorians.

- Todd Harper, CEO

Read  our full submission to the Victorian Cancer Plan 2020- 2024 

Priorities for improving cancer outcomes

Based on our findings, our submission identified 10 priorities that require urgent action.

Help cancer patients receive the best care

More needs to be done so that all Victorians with cancer, no matter where they live, have timely access to the best treatment and care.

We believe there needs to be continued investment in the implementation and embedding of the  Optimal Care Pathways (OCPs) to deliver this care to all Victorians.

“I know his life couldn’t be saved, but his death should have been a lot easier.” – Jill.

Read more about Jake, and how he fell through the gaps.

Improve care coordination

One of the strongest messages we heard from the community was that understanding the complex cancer care system is challenging. Access to care coordination, system navigation and supportive care should not depend on where you live or the type of cancer you’ve been diagnosed with.

We want to see investment in care coordinators to improve treatment and support with a focus on those regions experiencing greatest inequity.

Help to access support

We heard strongly from the community that finding support is difficult.   Cancer Council’s 13 11 20 nurses play a critical role in assisting those affected by cancer to understand their diagnosis, treatment and the services available to support them within the clinical, non-clinical and community settings.

In New South Wales, an innovative pilot places Cancer Council’s cancer nurses alongside care coordinators to ensure that those who are most vulnerable receive timely referrals to supportive care services. These face-to-face roles address the current missing link.

We would like to see investment in a pilot to test the placement and integration of Cancer Council cancer nurses in Victorian regional and metro health services where supportive care referral or care coordination is limited.

Reduce the cost of cancer

Despite Australia’s universal health care system, cancer patients face many unexpected and hidden costs that can seriously impact patients and their families.

We believe all patients have a right to know what costs they will incur following a diagnosis.  Cancer Council, alongside Breast Cancer Network Australia, CanTeen and Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, is leading the way in advocating for the implementation of an informed financial consent standard.

“It's the financial side of it that's been a killer - you're losing an income and gaining all of these expenses.”

– Kristine, breast cancer patient.

Read more about Kristine and other Victorians who have been impacted by the cost of cancer:

Invest in obesity prevention

Obesity increases the long-term risk of several chronic diseases including 13 types of cancer.

There needs to be an investment in obesity-prevention campaigns; to increase the community’s awareness about the link between obesity and cancer.

Children also need to be protected from unhealthy food and drink marketing, and we need to create healthy places for learning, working and living.

Increase bowel cancer screening

Bowel cancer is the second biggest cause of cancer-related deaths in Victoria with 1,244 deaths from the disease in 2018. Yet, if detected early, the 5-year survival rate for bowel cancer is more than 90%.

Commitment to ongoing investment in mass media campaigns is needed to increase public awareness and change social norms about bowel cancer screening across Victoria.

“Finding bowel cancer early can increase your chance of successful treatment, and ultimately, survival. Don't put it off like I did - the test is free and sent to your home. You'd be stupid not to do it."

– James, bowel cancer patient.

Read more about James and why it's important to get screened for bowel cancer.

Eliminate cervical cancer

Australia can become the first country in the world to eliminate cervical cancer by 2035 if vaccination for the human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical screening coverage are maintained at their current rates. Victoria is well positioned to be the first state in Australia to achieve this significant milestone.

There needs to be continued investment in education campaigns, particularly in at-risk communities.

“It was quite scary to have what felt like my womanhood cut out and to be told that when I came around, I might be infertile.”

– Kirsty, cervical cancer survivor

Prevent liver cancer

Liver cancer is the fastest growing cancer in Australia, particularly affecting migrant communities.

The biggest challenge is that liver cancer is often diagnosed late when there are limited successful treatment options available. It is a largely preventable condition if risk factors are diagnosed at an early stage and guidelines-based care is provided.

There needs to be a strategic response to liver cancer that is co-designed by the communities impacted.

Prevent lung cancer

Survival outcomes in certain low-survival cancers (such as lung) are exacerbated in those living in lower socio-economic regions. Lung cancer is Victoria’s leading cause of death – but is almost entirely preventable.

Education campaigns need to be strengthened to ensure at-risk populations receive information and support.

Improve access to cancer clinical trials

Clinical trials  play an important role in providing treatment options for people affected by cancer, as well as providing opportunities for psychological, supportive and palliative care. Despite this, currently less than 6% of Victorian adults with cancer participate in clinical trials each year.

We recommend developing and managing a centralised data repository for state-wide reporting on clinical trials.

This trial has already given me a few more months, hopefully it will continue to do so, as will the next trial and the next.

– Caitlin, age 34, stage 4 bowel cancer.

How you can get involved

If you’ve been affected by cancer, you can use your experience to help others. Register your interest to receive the latest cancer news and information and learn how you can get involved in our work.

Register your interest

If you’re a health professional, you can  join our Clinical Network.

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