New rural outreach clinic opens in Tamworth | Chris O'Brien Lifehouse
 In Lifehouse News

We are thrilled to announce our new monthly outreach head and neck cancer clinic has opened in Tamworth in Northern New South Wales.

Joining our head and neck cancer clinics in Port Macquarie, Orange and Nowra, a
gynae-oncology clinic in Canberra and a breast cancer clinic in Port Macquarie; it is the latest development in our strategy to improve access to specialist healthcare in rural and regional New South Wales. Through these clinics we can maintain our commitment to providing uncompromising and accessible care for all patients, even outside the physical walls of Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.

Operating out of the Regional Specialist Centre on Ringers Road, Associate Professor Michael Elliott will travel once a month to perform check-ups on head and neck patients, who need to continue seeing their doctor for five years post-operation.

63-year-old Leonie Scheu from Boggabilla can vouch for the need for this clinic. She was the first patient to be seen by Dr Elliott when it opened on October 25th.

Since being diagnosed with oral cancer, she has spent over $4000 on four trips to Sydney for treatment. As a single woman and carer for her 96-year-old mother who has dementia, she had to borrow money to make the long trips to Sydney. This compounded the stress of having to navigate an unknown city all on her own. These additional pressures and associated costs are an undue burden on patients who may not be well enough to travel, need to focus on maintaining their health throughout treatment but may also only need a quick review.

Though patients will still need to travel to Sydney for their operations, the follow-up appointments are a crucial part of the recovery process after head-and-neck surgery. There are multiple benefits to ensuring they are done promptly and regularly.

“A 10-hour round trip is a significant imposition for the patient… the reality is, if we can expedite the assessment process, we often get better results” says Dr Elliott.

Not only do the rigours of cancer treatment disproportionately disadvantage regional and rural patients, but there are higher rates of head and neck cancers in regional areas due to lifestyle factors, such as high sun exposure and rates of smoking. Dr Elliott says there are already 100 patients needing to be seen in Tamworth alone, and he’s ‘happy to help out on any referrals’ as he is also an ear, nose and throat surgeon. Between 20-25 patients can be seen each trip, and Dr Elliott is open to the possibility of performing minor surgeries there in the future as the demand for multi-disciplinary specialist care outside of major cities grows.

If you would like to be seen by a member of our team at this clinic, please fill out the form here or email headandneck@lh.org.au.

Image credit: Peter Hardin via The Northern Daily Leader.

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