Tom Westbrook from Reuters spoke to Prof Lisa Horvath, Director of Medical Oncology and Acting Director of Research at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse about why cancer has become Australia’s biggest killer.
Lisa says: “This is the product of a number of factors, such as better housing and nutrition and a really good health system that treats heart and lung disease, which mean that people live longer. People are now living long enough to get cancer in greater numbers. Age is the biggest risk factor, apart from smoking, for getting cancer.”
How will the health system cope with this?
Lisa says: “The health system has to focus on prevention, screening, treatment and support/survivorship services in a strategic way. The single biggest thing people can do to stop getting lung cancer is to stop smoking. You reduce your risk of melanoma by avoiding sunburn. You can cut your risk of many cancers by decreasing alcohol consumption. We have to improve our screening programmes, and we have to find smarter ways to treat patients. And afterwards, we need to find ways to better support survivors.”
And what does the future hold?
“Thirty to forty years ago many people first knew that they had heart disease when they dropped dead of a heart attack. Now coronary heart disease is a well-managed chronic medical condition that millions of people live with for decades. In the future, we hope to (1) prevent more cancers, (2) identify cancer early when it is able to be cured and (3) turn metastatic cancer into a chronic disease that people live with just as they live with heart disease.”
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