Rural focus for cancer strategy

THE gap in cancer survival rates between rural and city residents in the Hunter should be narrowed under a regional treatment strategy, the Cancer Council NSW has said.

Hunter manager Shayne Connell said the service broadly welcomed the region’s cancer plan, following a briefing  with Hunter New England Health on the plan.

The Newcastle Herald reported in December, when the plan was approved, new cancer cases in the Hunter New England district were expected to increase by about 30per cent in less than a decade.

Mr Connell said while the cancer plan was a broad strategy, they welcomed its aims.

They particularly welcomed a push to close the gap in survival rates between those living in rural areas, such as Muswellbrook, and those in metropolitan Newcastle.

‘‘The further you live away from a treatment centre, the worse off you are,’’ he said.

‘‘If you’re a rural patient and you’ve got a complex cancer, you do not have the option of being treated in Muswellbrook, Tamworth or Taree.

‘‘We need to correct that variation.’’

Mr Connell said the council also wanted to develop a one-stop shop for cancer treatment services.

‘‘Currently, there’s about eight different services.’’

Hunter Breast Cancer Foundation president Rosalie Taggart  welcomed the plan.

‘‘[We] fully support the strategic goals outlined in the statement and welcome the opportunity to work with other services to improve cancer services for all Hunter residents,’’ she said.

Hunter New England Health cancer services director Dr Anthony Proietto said the plan was designed to put the region in the best position to meet a predicted increase in cancer service demand.

‘‘[It is] caused by an ageing population, improved screening and diagnosis, improved survival and a significant number of patients who will develop more than one cancer throughout their life,’’ he said.

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