12 Australians living with lung cancer – representing the number of lives lost to the disease each day – take their campaign to Canberra to urge politicians to act.
- 12 patient stories represent the collective disparity: The deeply-personal stories of 12 patients will air in Parliament House to ask Parliament to address the gaps in research funding, early diagnosis mental health access-to-treatment and prognosis.
- While inroads are being made, the unmet need remains sizeable: Concerted, continued political commitments will be necessary to truly transform the support and treatment of those living with lung cancer.
- Australia is crying out for additional specialist nurses to improve care pathways: One in five patients receive no treatment, and just 50% receive best-practice care through multidisciplinary teams (MDT).1
CANBERRA: THURSDAY, 1 AUGUST 2019: Today, on World Lung Cancer Day 2019, 12 lung cancer patients from across Australia are descending on Parliament House, Canberra, to take their impassioned stories and pleas direct to Australian political decision-makers in a way seldom seen before. Their message is a simple one: Let this new Parliament be the first to truly recognise the gaps in treatment, care, and empathy that surround lung cancer, and commit to the policy interventions that can truly make a difference to the lives of those living with and impacted by the disease.
“This World Lung Cancer Day we call on all Parliamentarians to commit to truly tackling the disparity which continues to disproportionately impact people living with lung cancer,” said Mark Brooke, Chief Executive Officer, Lung Foundation Australia.
“We know that a strong, continued, and concerted effort is necessary if we are to truly make inroads in lung cancer, a disease which has historically been massively under-funded.”
“Chiefly, we’re asking for a commitment to increase lung cancer specialist nurses – an additional 25 are needed right away – owing to the systemically few currently in operation in this country. Lung cancer specialist nurses provide the specialist support, treatment, and understanding required to optimally manage those living with lung cancer.”
“Whilst we remain grateful of the leadership Minister Hunt has already shown, and we know will continue to show, intervention in the 2020 | 2021 budget is needed now more than ever to make a difference to the lives of those who are diagnosed with Australia’s biggest cancer killer.”
With an absence of lung cancer specialist nurses nationwide, who can ensure personalised care, 20% of those diagnosed with lung cancer never receive any form of treatment.1 Furthermore, less than half those diagnosed are treated via multi-disciplinary teams (MDTs), despite proven links to better quality care and survival outcomes.1
Over the past two years, Lung Foundation Australia has been proactive in raising awareness of the impact of stigma on the lung cancer community – stigma which unfairly impacts all facets of the lives of those living with the disease. With a five-year survival rate of just 17%2 – a statistic which has barely moved in decades – and a level of funding which remains chronically below par – the need to continue to shout loudly on this disparity is evident, particularly on the global platform that is World Lung Cancer Day.
“In the days, weeks and months to come, we will need as many advocates within Parliament –across the various parties – to voice the stories of their constituents in the chamber, to unite and commit to the simple policy recommendations we’re raising today, and to continue to lessen the stigma of lung cancer,” Mr Brooke continued.
From the financial burden of lung cancer, to late diagnosis and emotional burden,1 the Parliament House installation to be unveiled today – 12 powerful video projections – will encapsulate the diverse but connected experiences of the lung cancer community.
“Despite being in the top five most common cancers in Australia, and the leading cause of death from cancer, there remains a great deal to do, by way of policy and funding commitments necessary to make genuine inroads,” said Professor Christine Jenkins, Chair of Lung Foundation Australia.
“There is currently no national screening program in place for lung cancer, meaning patients are often diagnosed at a late stage – which has the knock-on effect of poorer outcomes.
“What is more, poor access to specialist multi-disciplinary teams in this country means patients fail to receive the expert guidance and care required at every stage of their diagnosis and disease journey.
“At today’s event in parliament house, we are drawing attention to the deficiencies in care for lung cancer and seeking an undertaking to turn this situation around”. Our ask of Parliament is to act on these recommendations which can, and will, make a significant difference to the lives of the many Australians living with lung cancer,” Professor Jenkins continued.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Australia, accounting for one in five cancer deaths, and the highest proportion of cancer burden in 2017.6 It can affect anyone, not just smokers. Approximately one fifth (21%) of those living with lung cancer are life-long non-smokers.1
As a testament to the need for change, approximately half of those living with lung cancer experience distress, anxiety and/or depression,1 and there remains insufficient support available for the majority.
To put this in perspective, approximately 12,740 Australians were newly diagnosed with lung cancer
in 2018;1 nearly 35 a day, meaning 6,200 of these Australians are likely to develop anxiety and depression.
The prevalence of anxiety and depression in lung cancer is 29.6 per cent higher than the average of other major cancers.1
Symptoms of lung cancer may go unnoticed by those living with the disease until the cancer progresses. The main symptoms of lung cancer are:3
- New cough or change in an ongoing cough
- Chest pain
- Repeated bouts of pneumonia or bronchitis
- Coughing or spitting up blood
This World Lung Cancer Day Lung Foundation Australia is asking Parliament for the following:
- A commitment to fund 25 lung cancer specialist nurses to work within multi-disciplinary teams
- A commitment to fund greater lung cancer specific medical research
- A commitment to fund better access to treatment and medications
- A commitment to fund a national lung cancer screening pilot program
For further information on this campaign and on the broader awareness raising efforts of Lung Foundation Australia, please visit: https://lungfoundation.com.au/
- Lung Foundation Australia (2018) Making Lung Cancer A Fair Fight: A Blueprint for Reform [online] Available at: https://lungfoundation.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Information-paper-Making-Lung-Cancer-A-Fair-Fight-A-Blueprint-for-Reform-Oct2018.pdf. Date Accessed: July 2019.
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2017. Cancer in Australia 2017. Cancer series no.101.Cat. no. CAN 100. Canberra: AIHW.
- Cancer Council Australia. Lung Cancer, Available at http://www.cancer.org.au/about-cancer/types-of-cancer/lung-cancer.html. Date Accessed: July 2019.