As cancer doctors, we know the hardest words we can say to our patients are: ‘you have cancer’.
As a patient and a family, ‘cancer’ is one the most terrifying of words to hear. If the patient is a child, it is deeply traumatizing for their parents. If the patient is a parent, their first thought goes to their children and how it will affect them, who will look after them?
These words are even harder to digest when its compounded with the worry and stress triggered by this terrible pandemic. Thousands of sick Australians were so fearful of contracting COVID-19 or so worried of the cost, at a time of deep economic uncertainty, that they ignored their cancer symptoms and delayed seeing a doctor.
7000 Australians may have gone undiagnosed or had a late diagnosis during 2020 . We know as Australia wins the fight against this terrible pandemic and the fear factor eases; there will be a surge of patients into our clinics and, for that, we are grateful as cancer does not wait.
According to a recent peer-review study published in the Lancet, the total number of new cases of cancer amongst Australians, are projected to increase by 47·4% over the next 20 years.
And whilst a delayed diagnosis can make the start of the cancer journey even more stressful than usual, we know there are many wonderful innovative treatments now available and a community of connected and experienced specialists and nurses that work together to lessen the blow of this awful disease.
With new advances in immunotherapy, targeted therapies and personalized medicine, many once fatal cancers are now being controlled. Cure rates are increasing and patients are living longer with their disease.
This is to be celebrated but what a cancer patient shouldn’t be thinking is “I can’t afford this.”
The Private Cancer Physicians of Australia (PCPA) and Rare Cancers Australia (RCA) are collaborating on this vitally important challenge because we know that more now than ever, Australian cancer patients, and their families are doing it very tough indeed.
As cancer physicians providing high quality, personalised, patient-centred care, we are acutely aware of this issue and we work very hard to control the out of pocket expenses that are within our control. As a lead patient advocacy group, RCA very often steps in to financially assist patients struggling with mounting medical bills. Sadly, COVID-19 has ruthlessly stripped that cupboard bare for all patient support groups.
Against the backdrop of rising inflation, the problem of severe financial toxicity, experienced by cancer patients and their families can, and must, be addressed now.
These carefully thought out initiatives have been put together by some of the nation’s most experienced and respected oncologists, supported by Australia’s lead patient advocacy groups.
We are all on the frontline of cancer care every day, and always have the patient’s best interests at heart.
We commit this pre-budget submission to the Government for consideration and we look forward to continuing to work with it to ensure the best outcomes for all Australian cancer patients and their families.
|Mr Richard Vines
Chairman and Founder
Rare Cancers Australia