Dean, Faculty of Radiation Oncology, RANZCR
Lack of awareness of radiation therapy’s value in treating cancer has been a long standing problem. Raising the profile of radiation oncology remains a major priority for the Faculty. We will continue the work in this area through the Radiation Oncology: Targeting Cancer campaign, which reached more than 7.5 million people in the 2014/15 financial year.
The Targeting Cancer website has been designed to provide relevant and timely information to patients and their loved ones, as well as health professionals. While content is focused mainly on information of relevance to people in Australia and New Zealand, the website receives significant interest from viewers overseas and is averaging 756 unique visitors per month.
The Targeting Cancer community service announcement/short film – Targets showcases radiation therapy by highlighting the stories of real patients who have received this treatment. By sharing their different experiences, we hope to connect with patients and their loved ones who are currently considering treatment options. The short film has been shown around the world, including at meetings of the American Society for Radiation Oncology and the European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology.
Referrals from other medical professionals, such as general practitioners (GPs), are also critical to achieving the campaign’s objective – to ensure that cancer patients who might benefit from radiation therapy know about it and receive it. To reach GPs, the campaign supports the planning and delivery of clinician-hosted oncology education evenings which demystify radiation therapy, address common scenarios that referrers encounter, and connect referrers to cancer centres.
Social, digital and print media round out the campaign’s main channels for engaging with audiences and communicating important information.
Please continue to support us in this important initiative to raise the profile of radiation oncology in any or all of the following ways:
Every year, around 20,000 Australian men are diagnosed with prostate cancer. While surgery has long been regarded as the most effective treatment option, modern radiation therapy has been shown to be just as successful. International guidelines consider both treatment options as appropriate in the management of localised prostate cancer, and recommend that both options be discussed with patients.
There was a recent debate between A/Prof Sandra Turner, a Senior Radiation Oncologist from Westmead Hospital with urologist Professor Mark Frydenberg on ABC Lateline. This has opened broader debate. The Faculty hopes to work constructively with all stakeholders to ensure joint position statements can be developed as well as on other collaborative initiatives.
The Faculty holds the view that cancer patients must have adequate and timely access to appropriate radiation therapy treatments. In the past 12 months, we have been actively negotiating with the Department of Health (DoH) in Australia on the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) applications for Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and image guided radiation therapy (IGRT).
Following continuous negotiations, it is likely that IMRT and IGRT will be listed on the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS), with separate items to support further data collection on utilisation and cost effectiveness, under the condition that it is cost-neutral. Though not an ideal outcome, we believe it is a big step forward that the modern techniques benefiting cancer patients are at least recognised, in the hope that they will be appropriately reimbursed in the future.
While the Faculty commends the MSAC for developing an item number of IMRT and IGRT, we are disappointed with the MSAC process, which shows a lack of understanding of radiation therapy, and a lack of appropriate consultation. The Faculty will actively participate in the current review of the MSAC process by the Australian Government, to help ensure a more evidence-based approach and appropriate assessment of medical services in the future.
The Australian Government recently announced a review and restructure of Medicare Benefits Schedule. The Faculty welcomes this opportunity to modernise the way radiation therapy is funded, and trust that the ultimate outcome will be beneficial for cancer patients.