A new report on cancer incidence and mortality in Australia highlights the urgent need to address disparities in treatment outcomes and prepare for an increasing number of cancer patients, Cancer Council has said.
Cancer Council Australia CEO, Professor Ian Olver, said Cancer in Australia 2014, released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, showed a continuation of recent trends, with improved overall survival mixed with barriers for specific groups.
“The report shows that around 67% of Australians diagnosed with cancer can expect to be alive in five years, which reflects improvements in prevention, early detection and treatment,” Professor Olver said.
“While this is good news, the report also highlights the relatively slow progress in improving outcomes for specific population groups. For example, Indigenous Australians are far more likely to be diagnosed with cancers of the cervix, liver and lung than non-Indigenous Australians.
“To close that gap in the cancer burden, we need to reduce the impact of hepatitis infection on liver cancer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations, help to ensure Indigenous women benefit more from the prevention and early detection of cervical cancer and do a lot more to cut smoking rates in Indigenous communities.”
Professor Olver said the report also highlighted the stark disadvantages faced by other population and patient groups, including people living in remote areas.
“The new data also emphasises the relative lack of progress in treating cancers such as pancreatic, brain and lung cancer. We need to increase our commitment to research if we are to find better treatments for these and other cancers.”
Professor Olver said that the more common cancers, including those that were easier to treat, nonetheless caused significant morbidity and mortality, and extraordinary distress for patients and families.
“Ultimately, every one of the 124,000 Australians who was diagnosed with cancer in 2014 has had to face a life-changing challenge,” he said. “If we support evidence-based interventions, patient outcomes will continue to improve. But the sheer numbers of patients, particularly in an ageing population, will require policy makers, community groups and individuals to work together in new ways to reduce the impact of cancer on Australians.”
Professor Olver said governments needed to invest more in prevention to offset downstream costs elsewhere in the health system and explore new efficiencies in the funding and targeting of high-cost cancer drugs.
Cancer Council Australia