Mackay woman takes lung cancer fight to Canberra


THE disparity between treatment, care and empathy for people suffering from lung cancer is behind a parliamentary cry for help from 12 patients.

Led by Mackay resident Terri Byrne, the group will travel to Parliament House for today’s World Lung Cancer Day to take her impassioned pleas straight to Australia’s political decision makers.

Their message: 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.

In a statement, Lung Foundation Australia said there was an absence of lung cancer specialist nurses nationwide and 20 per cent of those diagnosed never received any form of treatment.

The statement said patients with the disease had a five year survival rate of just 16 per cent and this had barely changed in decades.

Lung Foundation Australia chief executive officer Mark Brooke said 25 additional nurses were needed right away to provide personalised support and treatment.

“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,” Mr Brooke said.

“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.

“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.”

The 12 patients involved in the campaign will air video stories to parliament to address the gaps in research funding and the emotional and physical toll inflicted upon them.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Australia, accounting for one in five cancer deaths, with a fifth of those impacted life-long non-smokers.

Mental health and anxiety has also been found to be particularly prominent for those living with the cancer.

Lung Foundation Australia chairwoman Christine Jenkins said despite being in the top five most common cancers in Australia there remained a great deal to do by way of policy and funding commitments necessary to make genuine inroads.

“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,” Professor Jenkins said.

“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.”

Symptoms of lung cancer

  • New cough or change in an ongoing cough
  • Breathlessness
  • Chest pain
  • Repeated bouts of pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Coughing or spitting up blood

Lung Cancer Foundation Australia asks for:

  • 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.

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