CANCER is one of Australia's most frightening health concerns, with one in two men and one in three women set to get cancer within their lifetime.
Professor Sanchia Aranda, CEO of Cancer Council Australia, explains that despite Australia's high rate of cancer, the outcomes here are very good compared with the rest of the world.
"Our cancer incidence is similar to other Western countries, which is reasonably high, and one in two men and one in three women will get cancer in their lifetime," Professor Aranda said.
"So it's a common problem and we have some of the best cancer outcomes in the world.
"NSW and Victoria benchmark with 15 other like jurisdictions around the world, so places like Canada, the UK, Finland, Denmark and Sweden.
"We come out in terms of cancer outcomes in the top four, in all of those benchmarking exercises.
"And, we have the best outcomes in those 15 countries for bowel cancer."
What makes those outcomes so good is a degree of foresight within our health system, staying on top of new treatments and methods of diagnosis.
"We've got a very good health system despite its complexity.
"Our doctors and nurses are very well educated and we have pretty early access to all of the latest innovations.
"We have a thriving clinical trials program, so that really helps to embed new treatments into practice pretty quickly.
"We really do have the best quality cancer treatment here for the majority of patients."
According to Professor Aranda, prevention is one of the most effective methods of reducing cancer rates in Australia, alongside early detection.
"One in three cancers in Australia is preventable, and the number one preventable factor is tobacco use.
"Of the 37,000 preventable cancers in Australia every year, about 15,500 of those are due to tobacco smoke.
"One thing people can do is make sure they don't smoke. There's no safe amount of tobacco.
"Melanoma is the second most preventable form of cancer, so about 7000 melanomas per year that are preventable.
"And, UV radiation when you're on the road is a big issue, so making sure if you haven't got UV protected windows that you are wearing long sleeves and skin protection when you're in the truck.
"The third most important group is really a group that relates to diet and exercise, and obesity is a growing issue as a cause of cancer.
"That of course links to diet, so too many calories, too much red meat, too much alcohol, not enough green leafy vegetables and not enough fibre in the diet."
Early detection is the other big progression in cancer treatment, and Professor Aranda says detection has come a long way in the past 20 years.
"Survival rates of cancer are around 67% and rising, so we already cure a lot of people from cancer, and the biggest reason for that is early detection.
"Making sure that you take the key signs of cancer to your doctor early, and they're things like; lumps anywhere on your body, sores that won't heal, lesions on your skin, an existing mole that's changing in colour, bleeding in the bowel, unexplained indigestion, feelings of fullness, changes in your bowel habits.
"It's also really important to participate in national screening programs.
"Bowel cancer is our biggest joint problem second to lung cancer it causes the most number of deaths in Australia...and we have a fantastic national bowel screening program that will be among the best in the world...but our participation rate is only 40%.
"If we could get participation up to 60%, that would be 84,000 cancers by the year 2020 that could be prevented."
For more information on the Cancer Council Australia, visit www.cancer.org.au
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