Cancer drug is unaffordable

By LEE McIVORlmcivor@gladstoneobserver.com.au

HEARING the words 'you have breast cancer' is the most frightening experience any woman can have.

And for Margaret Budgeon it was total shock and devastation to be told she had a particularly aggressive type of breast cancer ? Her2 positive cancer.

About 20 per cent of women are diagnosed with this type of cancer.

Hope is round the corner with a new drug called Herceptin but there is a catch.

The drug is not available under the PBS scheme and therefore costs between $50,000 and $70,000 a year.

'When my oncologist told me of the drug and its cost I stewed over it for many days,' Margaret recalled.

'I talked to family and close friends about the options.

'I contemplated taking out a second mortgage.

'In the end it came down to what I could afford and I couldn't afford the Herceptin.'

Margaret is a single working mum with two teenage children. She was working fulltime as a teacher when she was diagnosed.

'I decided to keep working during the chemo treatment because I needed to keep my mind off what was happening.

'I was lucky in that I could access sick leave for the chemotherapy sessions and then work for the other three weeks between chemo.

'Working kept me sane and made me feel normal.'

But working meant Margaret couldn't put her energy into finding ways to access the drug Herceptin.

'I did ask staff at Gladstone Hospital if anyone had paid the money for this treatment and was told there wasn't anyone else in my position in Gladstone.

'And once I started chemo I was too tired to do anything except get through each day.'

Currently women can only access Herceptin under the PBS scheme if they are in the final stages of the disease.

'By then the drug is only good for prolonging your life,' Margaret said.



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