POSITIVE POLICY

Increase Support For Australians With Breast Cancer

A Shorten Labor Government will commit $7 million to support women with breast cancer in rural Australia and women all around Australia with secondary breast cancer.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Australian women, and the second-deadliest. Despite the great advances of recent years, diagnoses of breast cancer are unrelenting – at a rate of 43 a day, 300 a week and more than 15,600 a year.

Secondary breast cancer occurs where the disease spreads to other parts of the body – like bones, the lungs, the liver or the brain. While survival times are improving, secondary breast cancer is essentially incurable. It will kill 3,000 Australian mums, daughters, sisters and friends in 2016.

The Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) is the peak consumer organisation for Australians affected by breast cancer and has more than 110,000 members across Australia. Labor’s $7 million investment will enable BCNA to deliver improved support and information for women with secondary breast cancer and ongoing support for women with breast cancer in rural Australia.

Almost a third of Australian women with secondary breast cancer say they do not receive enough emotional support. Another one in five women say they have unmet needs for information.

As part of this commitment, $4.4 million will be invested over four years to improve psychosocial support and information for women with secondary breast cancer. With Labor’s support, BCNA will deliver: a telephone counselling service for women and their families staffed by oncology social workers; expanded access to specialist secondary breast cancer nurses; and better access to information through a digital platform.

Women who are diagnosed with breast cancer face particular challenges if they live in rural Australia. They are likely to live further from vital health services, and also further from other women and supporters who can help them on their cancer journey.

Currently, BCNA provides specialised services and support in rural Australia, but under Malcolm Turnbull’s Government, these programs are set to expire in June 2017.

Labor’s commitment of $2.6 million over three years will extend the BCNA’s funding to 2020, allowing it to continue its vital services. This commitment will also allow the BCNA to develop new programs – such as an app to help women with breast cancer across Australia.

Labor’s commitment will fund the continued distribution of the BCNA’s key resources – the My Journey Kit for women with early breast cancer and Hope & Hurdles for women with secondary breast cancer. It will also connect women with information and each other through community forums and the BCNA’s Online Network. Given the unique challenges of accessing support in rural Australia, these opportunities for women with breast cancer to support each other are vital –a Shorten Labor Government will ensure they continue.