By Amy Corderoy – Sydney Morning Herald.
They are three terrible words that change your life: “You have cancer.”
They set you on a path that can become part of your identity: the “cancer patient”, on a treadmill of doctors, treatments, hospitals, then, hopefully, the “cancer survivor”.
But for some diagnoses, there is no set path.
Richard Vines, the director of Rare Cancers Australia, advocates for those who may be the only person, or one of a few, in Australia to have their type of cancer.
“There’s absolutely nobody in Australia you can go to,” he says. “There is not enough money and there is not enough research, so you don’t have centres of expertise, you don’t have that brilliant part-academic, part-clinician researcher who is the pick of the bunch for that particular tumour type.”
A massive research report released this week by Cancer Australia illustrates his point. It shows the research money spent on common cancers such as breast and prostate cancer is disproportionately greater than that spent on less common cancers, considering their relative impacts in terms of death and disability.
Common cancers affect, but do not kill, more people. Their treatment, research and advocacy is often far more co-ordinated, and those left behind say the odds are stacked against them when success is linked to size.
Rare and less common cancers receive about 20 per cent of cancer funding, even though they account for 50 per cent of cancer deaths.
The Cancer Australia report shows the huge investment Australia makes in understanding and treating cancer, with more than a billion dollars spent between 2006 and 2011.
Things have improved, says chief executive Helen Zorbas, since the funding discrepancy was discovered in the first Cancer Australia research audit in 2005, when rare and less common cancers received only 16 per cent of funding. “But there’s still a long way to go,” she says.
While funding bodies can now see where money is being directed, fund-raising has also come to provide more money, shifting the balance away from generic cancer research and towards specific types of cancer.
The share of funding to breast cancer has also gone down, but it still receives many more dollars for every person whose life is affected by it than other cancers do. And unlike many other cancers, a huge proportion – 46 per cent – of money directed towards breast cancer comes from fund-raising…read more.