IT?S A WORRY

By BELINDA SCOTT

COMMUNITY groups may be recruited to raise funds to buy badly needed equipment for the treatment of skin cancer at the new North Coast Cancer Institute (NCCI) in Coffs Harbour.

The North Coast has the highest rate of melanoma in New South Wales yet an important piece of skin cancer-specific technology has not been included at the NCCI.

The manager of the NSW Cancer Council on the Coffs Coast, Patty Delaney, said they had heard from the area director of cancer services, Dr Tom Shakespeare, that the equipment, beneficial for melanoma, was not included in the equipment list for the new facility.

She described the news as 'a bit of a worry'.

Ms Delaney said Dr Shakespeare was speaking to a few different community groups to look at funding the equipment. Dr Shakespeare was not available for comment yesterday

The $20 million NCCI building at the Coffs Harbour Health Campus will contain about $7 million worth of equipment for treating cancer, including a $2.5-$3 million linear accelerator.

Medical oncology and BreastScreen facilities will also be included in the new cancer treatment centre.

The newly-appointed manager of radiation therapy at the NCCI, Stuart Greenham, said last month the linear accelerator would mainly be used in the treatment of prostate, breast, lung and abdominal cancer, although there was no one area of cancer which was not treated with this method.

Mr Greenham said radiation oncology, which uses high-energy x-rays, was also very effective in controlling the symptoms of pain and reducing the size of rapidly-growing tumours.

The public relations officer for the North Coast Area Health Service, Robin Osborne, said it was often assumed that the region's high rate of skin cancers was a factor of the climate and outdoor living, but since most of these cancers were diagnosed in people over the age of 50, the large number of older people moving to the coast was also a large factor.

Patty Delaney said the Cancer Council was currently targeting people over 55 with the Save Your Own Skin project, and representatives would be happy to provide speakers and material for talks to any clubs or groups.

"Two Australians die every single day from melanoma," Ms Delaney said.

"Older people think it's too late for them, but as we get older we get cumulative doses of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which pushes you a little closer to the edge.

"We are trying to raise awareness of early detection."



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