PROGRESS NEEDED: Gladstone had been identified in a national campaign wanting to address the lack of radiation therapy services for regional cancer patients.
PROGRESS NEEDED: Gladstone had been identified in a national campaign wanting to address the lack of radiation therapy services for regional cancer patients. Obencem

Campaign aims to bring cancer radiation therapy to Gladstone

A NATIONAL campaign has been launched calling for regional centres including Gladstone to have better access to radiation therapy.

Gladstone cancer patients who need radiation travel to Rockhampton or Bundaberg, which is what the Radiation Therapy for Regional Australia campaign hopes to change.

A campaign run by the Radiation Therapy Advisory Group is calling on the Federal Government and Opposition to invest in radiation therapy treatment centres in 13 regional areas, including Gladstone.

The group's associate professor Peter O'Brien said despite it being a "proven, life-saving" therapy, radiation was received by only one in three cancer patients in Australia, compared to one in two in Europe and North America.

"(RTAG) is asking politicians to provide policy and funding commitments to improve access in the highlighted areas," Prof O'Brien said.

"Cancer patients should not have to travel two hours or more per day for radiation therapy. Radiation therapy shouldn't mean weeks away from family for regional Australians."

Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd agreed radiation therapy was needed in Gladstone and believed one way to do this was by upgrading Gladstone Hospital from a level 3 to a level 4 hospital rating.

"Any new service would be greatly appreciated and the cost benefits to the patients would be huge, especially for those who require ongoing treatment," Mr O'Dowd said.

Member for Gladstone Glenn Butcher said any additional services for Gladstone were a "positive step" but getting enough specialist staff to maintain radiation therapy services would be difficult.

"These types of set-ups need five or six specialist people like doctors and clinical nurses," Mr Butcher said.

"There's plenty of other things we are going to get in the hospital before we look at major things like that.

"We're still trying to work towards getting the (new) emergency up.

"I've always been a huge advocate to get Gladstone to a level 4 but it's going to take a lot of time and money."

Prof O'Brien said regional cancer patients had higher mortality rates because of distances to treatment centres.

He said studies showed regional cancer patients were 35 per cent more likely to die within five years of diagnosis, and it was "highly likely" a lack of access to radiation therapy accounted for some deaths.



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