Improving access to potentially life-saving radiation therapy for thousands of New Zealand cancer patients will be the key message of the vital first-ever Radiation Oncology Horizon Summit.
New Zealand Health Minister Dr David Clark is hosting the Summit, which takes place at Parliament House on Thursday, May 9 and will be attended by radiation oncologists, other health professionals and key decision makers from across the country.
In association with The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists (RANZCR), the event will focus on the future of radiation oncology and cancer care in New Zealand and cover subjects including workforce and funding issues, intervention rates, the benefits of radiation oncology and the impacts of new technology on cancer care.
“With the impact of cancer in New Zealand projected to increase as a result of population growth and ageing, it is vital we improve access to radiation therapy for all cancer patients and are able to meet the increase in demand,” Radiation Oncologist, Dr Carol Johnson, said.
“Radiation treatment is a safe, effective and non-invasive way to treat cancer – either for cure to relieve pain and other symptoms for improved quality of life. It can be used to treat almost all cancers, anywhere in the body.
“About one in two people diagnosed with cancer would benefit from radiation therapy at some point in their cancer journey, yet the actual radiation therapy utilisation rate in New Zealand is currently around 37 per cent. This means about one in three cancer patients who would benefit from radiation therapy are missing out.
“There are several reasons for the underutilisation of radiation therapy in New Zealand, including a lack of awareness about radiation therapy, physical access to a treatment centre – particularly in regional settings – and patients not being provided with comprehensive information about all possible treatment options.
“This is the first-time key stakeholders in this area have united like this in New Zealand to address this critical issue. The Summit should be an excellent opportunity to help map out better solutions for New Zealand cancer patients and ultimately allow them greater access to radiation therapy.”
Cancer survivor Ms Nola Hermann said, “Eight years ago, I was an oesophageal cancer patient with a poor prognosis. I was referred to a radiation oncologist for treatment. Radiation therapy was daunting at first, but I had very helpful and professional radiation oncologist who explained the process, which was ultimately very quick and painless.
“Thanks to radiation therapy being an integral part of my treatment plan and the amazing team of professionals who looked after me, I am now healthier than ever and I got the chance to realise my dream of becoming an Early Childhood educator.”