WITH new data revealing that more Australians are being diagnosed with lung cancer than ever before, today lung cancer patient advocate, Lorraine Tyler and Lung Foundation Australia CEO, Mark Brooke presented a pledge signed by 30 national and international health and medical bodies to the Federal Shadow Minister for Health, The Hon. Chris Bowen MP and Adelaide MP Steve Georganas to show support for the work of specialist lung cancer nurses.
There are just 12 full-time equivalent specialist lung cancer nurses in the countryi, to care for more than 13,200 Australians diagnosed with lung cancerii. One of those Australians is former ultramarathon runner Lorraine Tyler, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2017 and then lung cancer just four months later.
“Lung cancer is a lonely place – the stigma is real and has a far-reaching impact. The universal compassionate response and depth of care that is there for other cancers just isn’t there for lung cancer. Neither are the nurses. Neither are the positive life expectancies,” Mrs Tyler said.
“We can be proud of the way we support and care for people with breast cancer in Australia. In my experience and confirmed by the statistics, this is not the case for lung cancer. This has to change. We need better funding to achieve similar and equitable outcomes for lung cancer patients too. I will continue to campaign for better outcomes for lung cancer patients until I take my last breath.”
Lung Foundation Australia CEO, Mark Brooke – the organisation that led the pledge – says Australians with lung cancer deserve the same care and support as patients with breast and prostate cancer.
“We have seen the Australian Government invest significantly in best-practice nurses and clinical care for Australians diagnosed with breast cancer and prostate cancer and the statistics show this has greatly improved outcomes for these patients. Yet, Australians suffering lung cancer are not afforded the same hope,” Mr Brooke said.
“Today, we are pleased to see that Shadow Minister Bowen and his colleagues are prepared to listen to the views of Australians, experts and corporate Australia, and acknowledge the support for specialist lung cancer nurses in our community. Patients with lung cancer and their families ask that governments listen and take on the views of Australians, experts, and stakeholders when developing policy and making budget decisions.”
Every hour an Australian loses their life to lung cancer, almost three-times that of prostate cancer. The latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data shows that the prevalence of lung cancer continues to grow with an increase of more than 2% each year since 2010ii. Despite lung cancer having a 5-year survival rate of less than 19%i, compared to 95% for prostate canceriii and 91% for breast canceriv, Australians diagnosed with the country’s biggest cancer killer continue to go without best-practice specialist nurse care.
Dr Vanessa Brunelli PhD, Research Fellow in Lung Cancer, Queensland University of Technology, says there is clear evidence to show that people living with other types of cancer who experience the involvement of a specialist cancer nurse in their care have better overall outcomes across the clinical pathway than those who do not.
“Research shows that people who have access to a specialist cancer nurse are 34% more likely to receive treatment than those who do not. People living with lung cancer deserve the same support and opportunities as those impacted by other commonly diagnosed cancers.”
Mr Brooke says, “for years, Lung Foundation Australia has called on the Federal Government to share investment in specialist lung cancer nurses with the states and territories and, despite significant investment in other cancers, the government has continued to treat patients with lung cancer – people like Lorraine – differently and we believe this is unjust.”
“It’s time to give Australians like Lorraine a fair go. Government support to increase the workforce capacity of specialist lung cancer nurses is the only way we will see equity and improved outcomes for the thousands of Australians diagnosed with this devastating disease every year,” Mr Brooke said.
“We’re not prepared to wait another 12 months, or 9,000 livesiii, to achieve basic, best-practice clinical care that other prostate and breast cancer patients take for granted.”
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To download a copy of the pledge, click here.