Research highlights major deficiencies in lung cancer care in Australia
Professor Fraser Brims from the Institute for Respiratory Health is the lead author of new research that has identified widespread deficiencies in Australia’s treatment of lung cancer patients, prompting calls for an overhaul in the way governments and hospitals approach the deadly disease.
The research could not find a single centre in Australia that was conforming with all national guidelines for optimal treatment.
Professor Brims said the issues were particularly pronounced in regional centres but occurred all across the country.
“The stark problems were the profound deficiencies in staffing and infrastructure in some areas for treating lung cancer,” he said.
“One in four of the hospitals didn’t have a specialist surgeon on site discussing cases, and one in two didn’t have a specialist nurse to help patients through this profoundly important time.”
The shortfalls exist despite lung cancer being both the leading cause of cancer-related death, and also the highest burden of any cancer. Some 13,000 people a year are diagnosed with the disease.
“This work should be a wake-up call for funding bodies, for research or health funding at a national, state or local level, to take lung cancer more seriously,” Professor Brims said.
“They need to plan their local research structure better to give these very vulnerable patients the right provision of care.”
Professor Brims said the lack of staffing and resources directed towards lung cancer stood in contrast to that of other major cancer killers, such as breast cancer and colon cancer, which had received big increases in public support.
He said there was “stigma” attached to lung cancer patients, despite the fact about one in four lung cancer patients had never smoked, which was reflected in the lack of resources and research funding dedicated to the disease.
While there are more than 400 specialist breast cancer nurses in Australia, the study found only 37 specialist lung cancer nurses.
Lung cancer research funding also lags other major cancers. The five-year survival rate for lung cancer has improved only modestly in the past 15 years, from 14 per cent to 19 per cent today, and is well below the rate of improvement in other major cancers.
The researchers plan to present their findings to senior government figures in the coming days.
Reference – The Australian