Working together to save lives
This year, another 33,000 Victorians will be diagnosed with cancer and over 11,000 will die from the disease. While significant progress has been made, the number of people being diagnosed continues to increase, with yearly diagnoses expected to reach 43,000 by 2027.
Below we have outlined the key areas we would like to see the next Victorian Government address to help us to prevent cancer, empower patients and save lives through research, support services and public education campaigns.
Provide hope by investing in low survival cancer research
More investment in research is needed to drive improvements in the prevention, detection and treatment of low survival cancers, defined as those with five-year survival under 50% like pancreatic and mesothelioma. Half of all cancer deaths in Victoria are from low survival cancers.
We urge the next Victorian Government to collaborate with us and the philanthropic community by contributing to dedicated, long-term funding to build the capacity of the research sector to drive improvements in survival.
Invest to improve patient access to clinical trials
Clinical trials are a critical part of a gold standard health care system, but only about 6% of Victorian adult cancer patients take part – with this figure lower among minority groups.
We recommend the next Victorian Government invest a further $650,000 in recurrent funding per annum toward our competitive funding scheme that awards grants to clinical trial sites to help improve patient access.
Increase bowel screening participation and save lives
Bowel cancer is Australia’s second most common cause of cancer death, yet if detected early, 90% of cancers can be treated successfully. Only 40% of Victorians participate in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP).
Modelling shows increasing national participation to 60% by 2020 would prevent more than 129,000 bowel cancer diagnoses and 95,000 bowel cancer deaths in Australia over the next 35 years.
We ask the next Victorian Government to increase its investment in public education to promote participation in the NBCSP, including a targeted focus on under-screened populations.
Reduce the smoking rate to below 8% by 2021
Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in Victoria, and is responsible for a considerable burden of chronic disease and healthcare costs. In 2016, smoking killed more Victorians than alcohol and drug overdoses, transport accidents, falls and accidental injuries, murder and intentional self-harm combined.
We recommend an additional investment of $2 million per annum in public education to ensure smokers, particularly from low socio economic backgrounds, are properly supported to quit.
Reduce the risk of alcohol
Alcohol causes more than 1300 deaths and nearly 40,000 hospitalisations annually. Alcohol is a cause of eight types of cancer and is responsible for more than 3200 cancers in Australia each year.
The next Victorian Government should:
- Fund a campaign to increase Victorians’ awareness of the link between alcohol and cancer, and empower them to reduce their cancer risk.
- Restrict new alcohol outlets in local areas with high numbers of existing outlets.
- Prevent promotion of alcohol discounts that create incentives to purchase excessive quantities of alcohol.
Prevent skin cancer
Our iconic SunSmart program is one of the most successful public health interventions in the world, estimated to have prevented more than 43,000 skin cancer cases and 1,400 deaths.
We ask the next Victorian Government to commit to saving even more lives from skin cancer through continued funding for SunSmart of $600,000 and $1.25 million for public education per annum from June 2019, and continuing the Victorian Shade Grants Program.
Curbing the rapid rise in liver cancer
Liver cancer has the fastest increasing incidence of any cancer and its survival is amongst the lowest. It is the seventh-highest cause of cancer-related deaths in Victoria, with chronic infection with hepatitis B or C the leading cause.
We ask the next Victorian Government to fund targeted communication strategies and community-based interventions to increase testing and treatment in communities that have high rates of chronic hepatitis B infection.
Reduce the burden of cancer caused by poor diet and obesity
Two-thirds of Australian adults and more than one-quarter of children are overweight or obese. It is estimated that around 3,900 cases of cancer each year in Australia are related directly to obesity, and 7,000 to poor diet and a lack of physical activity.
We ask the next Victorian government to collaborate on a campaign to educate the population on how to achieve healthy weight and healthy diet.
We also ask the next Victorian government to increase access to nutritious foods, including embedding the Healthy Choices policy in procurement and service delivery and removing all sugar sweetened beverages from state government owned, managed or funded facilities.
Prevent cancer at workplaces, schools and early childhood services
The places where people spend most of their time (such as workplaces, schools and early childhood services) have a role to play in supporting cancer prevention. These environments can introduce policies and behaviours that significantly influence health and wellbeing.
We are asking for $1.4 million over a four-year period from June 2019 to continue and strengthen the Achievement Program.
Increase access to information and support
Providing appropriate and credible information and support options promotes a positive patient experience and improves health outcomes. Access to information and support that complements care from other healthcare providers should be available to all Victorians regardless of geographical location.
We ask the next Victorian Government to fund 20 Cancer Information Hubs for health services in regional Victoria to help people navigate their cancer care and access community based support services.
Reduce the burden of transport for treatment
The cost associated with parking, travel and accommodation for cancer treatment is a burden on a substantial number of patients, which has an impact on psychosocial and financial wellbeing.
The Victorian Patient Travel Assistance Scheme (VPTAS) subsidises the transport and accommodation costs incurred by rural Victorians affected by cancer. This scheme is lagging behind other jurisdictions in failing to adequately compensate those in need.
We ask the next Victorian Government to:
- Increase the current VPTAS re-imbursement rates for travel and accommodation and change the distance criteria to a single cumulative threshold of 200km a week
- Expand the eligibility criteria for VPTAS to include patients that have to travel for treatment in clinical trials
- Invest in parking governance initiatives for hospitals and other cancer clinics and technological infrastructure to support the provision of best practice parking facilities and information for patients.
Support Victorians at the end of life
Early access to palliative care services, with a focus on improving quality of life for those with advanced cancer and their families, can assist people to live and die well.
We are asking the next Victorian Government to:
- Invest in building community awareness and engagement with palliative care to support Victorians to access the benefits of it.
- Strengthen resourcing for specialist palliative care services including investment in outpatient models.
- Invest in education for clinicians to equip them with the skills to discuss goals of care, palliative care, end of life and death and dying with their patients.
- Establish an effective and transparent mechanism to monitor the impact of the introduction of voluntary assisted dying on palliative care service capacity to ensure no Victorian’s access to palliative care is impeded by the anticipated increased demands on services.
Increase access to specialised psychological support
Cancer can have a profound impact on the emotional wellbeing of patients as well as their care givers. There is an unmet need for specialised psychological support at all stages, from diagnosis, during and after cancer treatment, when living with advanced disease and at end of life.
We ask the next Victorian Government to increase access to specialist psychological services for those affected by cancer. We recommend the establishment of a task force to develop a state-wide plan to increase this access.
Cancer Council has reviewed the commitments made by the three major political parties regarding cancer prevention, research and support. See what the parties have promised.