Roadblocks to radiotherapy
When John Mace of Modanville was diagnosed with rectal cancer in 1999 he had the option of being treated in either Sydney or Brisbane. He opted for Sydney because his daughter lived there.
“After I had the operation, there was a month before the radiotherapy treatment and I couldn’t travel,” he said.
John had his treatment at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and was able to stay for six weeks in a hostel that was attached to the hospital.
“The Queen Mary building had a hostel and if patients were having ongoing treatment you could stay there and do your own meals,” he said.
John did one 14-hour trip home on the train, which he said “wasn’t good”, and then had to go back down to Sydney for follow-up every three months.
“We had to save like anything to get the fare for a plane because it was quick.”
John’s story about the difficulties in accessing treatment is echoed in a new report from the Cancer Council called Roadblocks to Radiotherapy – stories behind the statistics. According to Patty Delaney, manager of the Cancer Council’s North Coast region, the report confirms what they already knew from previous reports; that difficulties in accessing radiotherapy services are leaving up to 5000 patients in NSW without treatment every year.
It is now expected that 50% of people in NSW will develop cancer by the time they turn 85.
“We need to see an increase in public radiotherapy services on the Far North Coast, especially in the Tweed, which has the largest ageing population and the highest number of cancer diagnosis on the Far North Coast,” Ms Delaney said. “Although radiotherapy services will be available in Lismore in 2010, this centre will not have the capacity to meet the demands of all cancer patients requiring this treatment. It is also important that people living across the region will be able to access radiotherapy services in Lismore through adequate transport and accommodation services.”