‘New Normal. Same Cancer’ launches today, on World Cancer Day 2021, to urge the 150,0001 Australians who will be diagnosed with cancer this year to speak to their doctors for any new symptoms, following nationwide declines in diagnosing and treating cancer in 20202
- The search for Australians unknowingly living with cancer ramps up: At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic (March-April 2020), there were between 27% to 50%2 fewer diagnostic procedures for breast, bowel, lung, and prostate cancer, meaning thousands of Australians may be living with undiagnosed cancer.1,2
- First of its kind collective of nine, national cancer patient organisations join forces as threat of cancer is as real as ever: The campaign centres on the nine major cancer types – including lung, bowel, prostate, breast, stomach, ovarian, and rare cancers, together with leukaemia and lymphoma – which collectively represent over 132,000 new cancer cases, and more than 51,000 cancer deaths per year3,4,5
- Between January to September 2020, there were approximately 149,000 fewer diagnostic procedures for breast, bowel, lung, and prostate cancers compared to the same period in 2019:2,6If the declines observed in diagnostic and surgical procedures continue in to 2021, many Aussies could be living with cancer and not know it. We must act now to reverse the trend as speed to diagnosis is vital regardless of cancer type.
FOR RELEASE: 4 FEBRUARY: SYDNEY: In response to what has been the greatest healthcare challenge since the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, nine of the nation’s leading cancer patient organisations are endorsing a new campaign – ‘New Normal. Same Cancer’ – in response to the sharp declines observed in 2020 across cancer diagnostic and surgical procedures as part of efforts to turn complacency into action.2 It is crucial for Australians to ensure that all new symptoms are checked without delay, and that contact is maintained with healthcare providers for Australians living with pre-existing conditions.
The nine groups include Bowel Cancer Australia, GI Cancer Institute, Leukaemia Foundation, Lung Foundation Australia, Lymphoma Australia, Pink Hope, Prostate Cancer Foundation, Ovarian Cancer Australia and Rare Cancers Australia.
The pandemic has meant Australia has taken its foot off the pedal when it comes to tackling cancer – and is at risk of leading to more cancer related deaths. The message of this new campaign is simple: Don’t wait. Contact your doctor. Get tested. A simple message to remind Australians to act on any change they have experienced in themselves – however seemingly minor; symptoms such as unexplained weight loss, unexplained ache or pain, or an unusual lump or swelling,7 should not be ignored or brushed off.
Social distancing, hand sanitising, mask wearing, and virus awareness have become part and parcel of our everyday lives. COVID-19 has given us a “new normal.” As the patient group collective is keen to remind Australians, though, the “same cancer” remains. The same threat of cancer is as real as ever.
Lung Foundation Australia CEO Mark Brooke said time was of the essence when it came to “finding” those Australians living with cancer unknowingly.
“Early diagnosis is critical to receiving best-practice care and treatment,” he said.
“Symptoms of cancer can be vague, and people often put it down to signs of ageing or a lack of fitness. For any cancer, early diagnosis is critical to receiving best-practice care and treatment. If you’re experiencing any new, persistent or unexplained symptoms, don’t delay talking to your GP. And if you have a diagnosis of cancer, it’s really important you continue your regular treatment and care.”
Mr Brooke said the COVID-19 pandemic had impacted all lives dramatically, no more so than those living with or at risk of cancer.
“We cannot stress enough that while we live in a new normal in many respects, the threat of cancer remains unchanged; and the same level of vigilance on the early warning signs, and action on diagnosis are required,” he said.
There is a mounting body of evidence which points to the direct knock-on effects of COVID-19 on cancer services and delivery. Compared to the same period in 2019, between January-September 2020, there were:2
- 17,509 fewer diagnostic procedures for breast cancer
- 78,048 fewer diagnostic procedures for bowel cancer
- 961 fewer diagnostic procedures for lung cancer
- 52,544 fewer diagnostic procedures for prostate cancer
- 34,268 fewer non-surgical and surgical procedures for skin cancers other than melanoma and melanoma skin cancers
Cancer Australia is also keen to stress the importance of the campaign message, given the impact of 2020 on cancer-related services.
“New normal, same cancer is a vital message – because as we know, cancer won’t wait,” said Professor Dorothy Keefe, CEO Cancer Australia.
“Last year, Cancer Australia analysed evidence that showed a substantial reduction in cancer-related services and procedures that occurred from March through until September 2020. As we know, any potential delays in diagnoses and treatment in response to these reductions may lead to more advanced stages of cancer progression and poorer patient outcomes, so we encourage people to see their doctors as usual. It is important to remember most symptoms are due to something less serious than cancer, but if it is cancer, the earlier it is found, the better.”
There are a number of simple steps we can take as individuals to prioritise our health, check-in with our doctors for routine healthcare visits, prioritise screenings, ask questions about any unusual symptoms, and encourage our loved ones to do the same:
Talk to your doctor: If you are experiencing any symptoms, are due for a screen or test, or if you feel something is wrong, contact your doctor.
Reschedule testing: Book any appointments for testing or screening that you may have delayed and / or missed due to COVID19.
Share the message on social media: Tell your loved ones to get checked and encourage others to do the same using the hashtag #NewNormalSameCancer
Cancer symptoms can include:7
- lumpiness or a thickened area in your breasts, any changes in the shape or colour of your breasts, unusual nipple discharge, a nipple that turns inwards (if it hasn’t always been that way) or any unusual pain
- a lump in the neck, armpit or anywhere else in the body
- sores or ulcers that don’t heal
- coughs or hoarseness that won’t go away or coughing up blood
- changes in toilet habits that last more than 2 weeks, blood in a bowel motion or urine
- new moles or skin spots, or ones that have changed shape, size or colour, or that bleed
- unusual vaginal discharge or bleeding
- unexplained weight loss or weight gain
- diarrhoea or constipation for no obvious reason
- a feeling of not having fully emptied your bowels after going to the toilet
- pain in your abdomen (tummy) or your anus (back passage)
- persistent bloating
Anyone seeking further information on the campaign, and how to get involved, should visit the campaign microsite at: www.newnormalsamecancer.com.au
New Normal. Same Cancer was made possible with the support of Rare Cancers Australia, Ovarian Cancer Australia, Lung Foundation Australia, Bowel Cancer Australia, Lymphoma Australia, Leukaemia Foundation, GI Cancer Institute, Prostate Cancer Foundation, and Pink Hope, and with funding from AstraZeneca Australia.
This media release was distributed by LIFE Agency (an Ogilvy PR Australia company)
Media contact details
- Mike Lane / firstname.lastname@example.org / 0409 666 022
- https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/cancer/cancer-data-in-australia/contents/cancer-risk-data-visualisation. Date accessed: January 2020
- https://www.canceraustralia.gov.au/sites/default/files/publications/national-and-jurisdictional-data-impact-covid-19-medical-services-and-procedures-australia-breast/pdf/national_and_jurisdictional_data_on_the_impact_of_covid-19_on_medical_services_and_procedures_in_australia.pdf. Date accessed: January 2020
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Cancer in Australia. Data tables: Cancer data in Australia – Book 1. Incidence supplementary tables. Available at: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/cancer/cancer-data-in-australia/data. Date accessed: January 2020
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Cancer in Australia. Data tables: Cancer data in Australia – Book 2. Mortality supplementary tables. Available at: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/cancer/cancer-data-in-australia/data. Date accessed: January 2020
- Data on file. Estimated new cancer cases and deaths in 2020.
- Health Direct. Cancer. Symptoms. Available at: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/cancer#symptoms. Date accessed: January 2020