Cancer on the rise on the Coast

CANCER remains an overwhelming health problem plaguing North Coast hospitals with health statistics indicating diagnosis rates continue to rise.

Health professionals believe, however, significant ground is being made by breakthroughs in treatment and advances in diagnosis, reflected by significant falls in cancer fatalities.

Doctors, specialists, oncology staff and researchers countering the disease on the North Coast continue to be briefed on the best practices existing in Australia.

The annual North Coast Cancer Conference held in Coffs Harbour at the weekend attracted 150 delegates including some of the country’s leading cancer experts.

“A wide range of topics were covered including new techniques in the treatment of prostrate and anal cancer, palliative care and sexuality after cancer diagnosis and treatment,” said conference chairman, associate professor Dr Tom Shakespeare.

“Given cancer rates have increased in the region, it’s important these types of educational conferences have been established and the benefits are immense for the delegates.

“One example of this was that Australia’s foremost authority on radiotherapy after surgery for prostrate cancer, Professor Andrew Kneebone of the Royal North Shore Hospital, addressed the audience referring to the success in survival rates.”

North Coast Area Health statistics indicate that between 2003 and 2007 there were 16,239 new cases of cancer diagnosed, an average of 3248 per year. Over the same period, there were 5887 cancer deaths in the region, an average of 1177 per year.

Age-adjusted rates for all cancers were significantly higher than the state average, with the most common new cancers for North Coast residents being of the prostate (19.5%), melanoma of the skin (13.6%), breast (9.9%), lung (9.6%) and large bowel (8.1%).

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