Mr GEOFF PROVEST
(Tweed) [1.22 p.m.]: I am sure members from both sides of the House will join with me on this important subject. As we are aware, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Yesterday, 26 October, was the Cancer Council's Pink Ribbon Day, which aims not only to raise awareness about breast cancer but also to raise funds towards research, education and patient support programs. Money raised from Pink Ribbon Day will help the Cancer Council fund more world-class research, practical support, and prevention and early detection programs. This year alone around 13,500 Australian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer: one in nine Australian women is diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 85. While recent breakthroughs have increased survival rates, one in nine women will be diagnosed and will need our help and support.
We are making a real impact in the treatment of breast cancer and support for its sufferers. In the past 20 years around 125,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer, yet the survival rate after five years is as high as 98 per cent if the cancer has not spread beyond the breast tissue. I shall refer to some of the breast cancer survivors in the Tweed. Jean Kenny of Terranora was diagnosed six years ago, along with two close friends. Many articles have appeared about the impacts of this disease on the community. Another survivor is Jo Payne. Jo and her husband, Fess, are good friends of mine. Jo survived two mastectomies and reconstructive surgery. She is a hardworking young mum. Her diagnosis was absolutely devastating, but her great Australian spirit and resilience shone through. Jo fought to live for the love of her husband and children. Ros Proud also survived breast cancer. Recently I saw Ros in the local shopping centre and she told me that she has to undergo further treatment, but her thumbs are up and the smile is on her face. She is very supportive about the work being done in breast cancer treatment.
The Tweed council area needs more cancer services and locals have been campaigning for a radiation treatment unit. Our recently installed breast screening facility is staffed by excellent clinicians. From 2 June 2008 to 31 March 2009 Tweed Hospital breast screening unit screened 2,846 women. The problem facing Tweed locals is that a further assessment can be done only at Lismore. This involves a long country road drive of approximately 70 minutes, but many people in the Tweed do not have access to motor vehicles. The problem in undergoing a second assessment is further exacerbated by the fact that the area has no public transport system. An additional problem for the Tweed is that the 1800 number advertised by the Government, which is active across the State, does not work for the majority of the area because Telstra has deemed the Tweed to be in the 07 area, so any calls to the 1800 number presently are redirected. I hope that problem can soon be overcome.
The recent Garling inquiry identified that fewer than 10 per cent of patients attend a second breast screening assessment, preferring instead to attend private clinics. Dr Abdee, an excellent local oncologist, tells me that the Tweed probably has the lowest uptake of women for mammogram examinations. I have been working with the Tweed Valley general practitioners trying to reverse that disturbing fact. We have a tremendous success rate of 98 per cent after five years, but the Tweed does not have the facility of a second assessment team. Recently the local hospital received level 5 accreditation through the Institute of Medical Education and Training board. A number of women forgo the second assessment because they simply cannot get babysitters and cannot travel to Lismore. It is crazy. Last year alone the Tweed area had just on 3,500 registered cancer sufferers. Our demographic goes north into Queensland to Palm Beach and includes a further 2,500 sufferers. I have requested a meeting with Paul Lucas, the Queensland Minister for Health, to see if we can overcome this problem. Once again, I am 100 per cent committed to the Tweed.
Ms ANGELA D'AMORE
(Drummoyne—Parliamentary Secretary) [1.27 p.m.]: I thank the member for Tweed for bringing Breast Cancer Awareness Month to the attention of the Chamber. It is important to support women and men in our community who are suffering from this disease. Often people forget that men also are affected by breast cancer: it seemed taboo for men to come forward. The member for Tweed is right in saying that the awareness level has been raised a great deal over the past couple of decades. No longer is breast cancer taboo, as it was 20 or 30 years ago, when women would hide that they had the disease and it would not be discussed in the community. That we can discuss breast cancer and support women and men who are suffering its effects shows how far we have come in the past couple of decades.
The member for Tweed is right: it is very important to get women to undergo the second analysis. It is time also for us to recognise our clinicians around the State and the great work our breast cancer nurses do, not only in monitoring men and women with breast cancer but also in providing counselling and support when the patients come into hospital. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy can be devastating on the body and people receiving such treatments need a lot of care. Also, without the support of our researchers we would not have made the inroads we have. Once again I thank the member for Tweed for raising these issues. I wish him well in the future.