Many people in the Far North Coast are missing out on life-saving radiotherapy treatment, so the Cancer Council NSW is asking the public to share their radiotherapy experiences in a one-month call-in to the Cancer Council’s Helpline.

In NSW, less than 40 per cent of cancer patients received radiotherapy in 2008, which falls significantly below the internationally accepted benchmark of 52 per cent, the council said.

The Cancer Council estimates that approximately 5000 cancer patients each year do not receive the treatment they require.

It said NSW lacks the capital equipment and radiotherapy workforce needed to meet current or future needs, placing strain on the existing system. This means some cancer patients are not able to start radiotherapy treatment within the clinically recommended standard of 21 days.

“In many areas, geographical distance creates additional problems for people living in areas without radiotherapy treatment centres,” Dr Andrew Penman, CEO at Cancer Council NSW, said.

“The burden of travel, accommodation away from home and out-of-pocket expenses can cause a great deal of stress during an already difficult time.”

In some parts of the State, there are only private radiotherapy centres.

Patients without private health insurance either face personal costs of thousands of dollars, or have to travel further from home for treatment that typically ranges from three to six weeks.

Currently there are no radiotherapy services available on the Far North Coast and residents have to travel to Brisbane or Coffs Harbour for radiotherapy treatment in a public hospital.

Consequently, many patients are choosing not to undergo treatment due to transport difficulties.

During the Radiotherapy Call-in, experienced health professionals trained in oncology who staff the Cancer Council NSW’s Helpline will answer calls throughout March as part of an initiative to better understand the radiotherapy experiences of cancer patients and their families.

“Despite the fact that many health professionals involved in radiotherapy are doing the best they can in difficult circumstances, poor patient access to radiotherapy has been a long-standing concern for Cancer Council NSW,” said Corinne Martin from the Far North Coast Regional office.

“This Radiotherapy Call-in is an opportunity for cancer patients and people affected by cancer in the Far North Coast to share their experiences about waiting times and access to facilities.

“We want to hear people’s personal stories so we can learn more about how current service levels in the Far North Coast are impacting patient well-being.”

The Cancer Council’s Radiotherapy Call-in launches on 3 March 2009 and is open weekdays throughout the month from 9am–5pm. Residents can contact the Call-in by ringing The Cancer Council’s Helpline on 13 11 20 for the cost of a local call.

  • WHAT: Radiotherapy Call-in to Cancer Council’s Helpline
  • WHO: Cancer specialists and health professionals
  • WHEN: Tuesday 3 March 2009 – Tuesday 31 March 2009, 9am-5pm, weekdays
  • WHERE: Across New South Wales. Cancer Council’s Radiotherapy Call-in can be accessed from anywhere across the State for the cost of a local call on 13 11 20.