Cancer rates above state average in our health district

Professor Tracey O’Brien, Chief Cancer Officer for NSW and Cancer Institute NSW CEO, visited Broken Hill this week as part of a two-month, state-wide tour of local health districts.

The Professor said the Far West Local Health District (FWLHD) area “had slightly higher [cancer] incidents than the state average” and pointed out one third of cancers in NSW were down to lifestyle choices, which people could modify.

A highly respected paediatric oncologist and haematologist, Professor O’Brien was appointed the state’s Chief Cancer Officer in July, and this was her first visit to Broken Hill, in that capacity.

On Wednesday she met with FWLHD Interim Chief Executive Brad Astill, plus key FWLHD staff and health partners to discuss local cancer outcomes and how the Institute can continue supporting the local health district in lessening the impacts of cancer in the Far West.

“NSW is recognised as a global leader in cancer care, with survival rates among the best in the world, but there is still much more we can do to lessen the impact of cancer,” Professor O’Brien said.

“However, cancer continues to impact too many people in our community with one in two people across NSW diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.

“There are also communities that continue to experience poorer cancer outcomes, including Aboriginal communities, people living in regional rural and remote NSW, and multicultural communities.

“Working closely with these communities to ensure equitable cancer outcomes is a priority of our state’s new Cancer Plan.

“In the Far West Local Health District, it is projected that this year alone, 260 people will be told they have cancer, and 75 people will lose their lives to the disease.

“Part of the Institute’s work is supporting local health districts to deliver effective, efficient, affordable cancer treatments.

“A priority in the NSW Cancer Plan 2022–2027 is the prevention of cancers, which is one of the most effective ways to achieve the Institute’s vision of ending cancers as we know them.”

“The FWLHD has slightly higher incidents than the state average.

“Incidents is the number of new cases, that is the number of people in every group of 100,000 that are diagnosed with cancer, the cancer incident rates for the far west are 533 per 100,000 people and the state average is 495 per 100,000.

“One third of cancers have a modifiable lifestyle factor, so taking steps to being as healthy as one can be is very important.

“Healthy lifestyles are important for cancer prevention, sun safe behaviour, weight control, exercise and not smoking as well as seeing your doctor and seeking help if there are any symptoms as early as possible can modify risks and early detection of cancers,” according to Prof O’Brien.

Mr Astill said the visit by Professor O’Brien was really important and, “allows us to get a clear understanding of how we are fairing with the services we provide and also how we compare to the rest of the state, so it does give us a measure of what we are doing and whether we are doing it well and also where the gaps are”.

“We have a really well-established cancer and palliative care service here and in fact it is one of the leading ones in the state.

“In a recent review of rural health services, it was pointed out that our service was one of the best in the state.

“We are delivering really good services and a part of that, obviously, is helping the patients to manage their own care and their own health, which is very important,” Mr Astill said.

The Institute has developed a Snapshot Report on Cancer in the Far West, which details Far West Local Health District’s projected cancer incidence and mortality in 2022, the most common cancers, and highlights how residents in the district can reduce their risk of developing some of the most common types of cancer.

It is estimated that the highest death rate, across the FWLHD, will be from lung cancer in 2022 with 16 people succumbing to the disease.

But the highest incidents of cancer detection will be breast cancer with 28 people expected to find out they have developed symptoms.

The NSW Government invests around $175m annually, through the Cancer Institute NSW, to improve cancer care in NSW and lessen the impact of cancer for people across the state.

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