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BCNA News 11 Apr 2022

Calling for change

*This page will be updated regularly with all the latest breast cancer news from the 2022 federal election. Last updated: 16 May 2022.

New cancer centres

The Coalition has pledged $375m towards a new comprehensive cancer centre in Brisbane if re-elected, providing one facility that would include onsite imaging, chemotherapy, rehabilitation and clinical trials. The centre would provide patients access to specialist nurses and supportive care – focusing on treatment of all cancer types.

The Coalition also recently announced a $77 million commitment to establishing a world-leading research, education and clinical cancer centre in South Australia. The Bragg Comprehensive Cancer Centre (BCCC) will follow the model of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Victoria, which we know has improved outcomes for patients.

Rural health funding commitment

BCNA welcomes last week's commitment by the Coalition to inject new funding into rural healthcare, which was also matched by the Australian Labor Party.

The focus on bolstering the rural health workforce will ensure patients living in these areas have improved access to vital services.

Invest in COVID-19 health system recovery and future sustainability

For many years, women in our network have told us they are waiting unacceptable times for breast reconstruction surgery. Even prior to COVID-19, we know 27 per cent of women were on waitlists for longer than the recommended timeframe of 12 months.

We know that COVID-19 has also exaggerated these wait times due to pauses during lockdowns, high COVID-19 hospitalisations and significant staff shortages.

In our election manifesto we are calling for a national plan to clear elective surgery backlogs and increased transparency of elective surgery wait times so people can make informed decisions about their care.

We call for:

  • Investment to recruit and retain the specialist cancer nursing workforce (including Breast Care Nurses, Metastatic Breast Care Nurses and Cancer Nurse Practitioners), to ensure optimal care is not impeded by a substituted, non-specialist nursing workforce amid current shortages.
  • Development of a national plan to clear elective surgery backlogs through better partnerships between public and private healthcare, and increased transparency of elective surgery waiting lists for consumers.

Breast reconstruction is an important part of moving forward for many women and extended delays can result in significant mental health impacts.

Read all BCNA's recommendations in our Election Manifesto.

Medication price reduction

BCNA welcomes the commitments from both the Coalition and Australian Labor Party to reduce the cost of prescription medicines by lowering the co-payment cost for drugs currently on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

However, BCNA advocates for much more to be done to reduce the overall financial burden of breast cancer and to ensure new treatments are accessible to all Australians.

Reduce the financial burden of breast cancer

The cost of breast cancer continues to be a significant burden for Australian women and men. 

There is often a high cost associated with accessing drugs that are not currently available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). 

We would like to see new breast cancer treatments approved and listed on the PBS as soon as possible. Australians should have equal access to new and emerging treatment options without being forced to fund them privately or seek access schemes run by pharmaceutical companies that are often capped or still incur a significant cost.

BCNA also advocates for policy initiatives that facilitate greater access to financial support for those with breast cancer and their families.

We call for:

  • Subsidisation of genetic and genomic profile testing on the Medicare Benefits Scheme to alleviate the cost of this service.
  • Consolidation of processes and greater international harmonisation when considering new drugs, and the re-purposing of existing drugs, for subsidy on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
  • Regulatory changes to allow for easier early compassionate access to superannuation for breast cancer patients to fund treatment and care.
  • Appointment of Chronic Illness Liaison Officers within Centrelink to provide greater specialist financial support to those with cancer and other long-term illnesses.

Read all BCNA's recommendations in our Election Manifesto.

Improve mental health support for those with cancer

Australia has seen a significant increase in feelings of loneliness and isolation during the past two years.

Here at Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA), many within our network have told us that they are struggling with the strain of the pandemic combined with the existing psychological impacts of a breast cancer diagnosis.

We know that those with cancer need specialised psycho-oncology support to address family mental wellbeing, side effects of treatment, financial stress, mortality, isolation, chronic pain and feelings of being a burden.

Our first recommendation in our Election Manifesto is to improve mental health support for those with cancer.

We call for:

  • Specific emphasis on the needs of those with cancer in the Sixth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan, with regard to pillars one (prevention and early intervention), four (supporting the vulnerable), and five (governance and workforce).
  • Greater investment in non-governmental services providing specialised mental health support to those with cancer to fill workforce and capacity gaps in the public mental health system.
  • Investment to grow the psycho-oncology workforce and to upskill the existing mental health workforce with cancer-specific training.

Read all BCNA's recommendations in our Election Manifesto.

BCNA's Election Manifesto

The 2022 federal election will be held on Saturday 21 May.

This election presents an opportunity for BCNA to advocate for improvements to Australia’s healthcare system and health policies in the interests of people diagnosed with breast cancer.

With over 160,000 members across Australia, we are an extensive and influential network that offers unique insight into the lived experience of breast cancer, especially the challenges people are facing.

Australia’s COVID-19 response is also causing and exaggerating unacceptable gaps in access to breast cancer optimal care, and our health systems are experiencing unprecedented strain.

With this in mind, BCNA has established six priority areas, including 17 specific recommendations, that aim to address the key challenges being faced by people with breast cancer.

We are calling on the federal government’s commitment to take action and change policies in the following six priority areas to improve outcomes for people with breast cancer:

  1. Improve mental health support for those with cancer
  2. Reduce the financial burden of breast cancer
  3. Invest in COVID-19 health system recovery and future sustainability
  4. Lead reform in breast cancer early detection
  5. Collect and report optimal care data
  6. Best use of telehealth

Read the full Election Manifesto and recommendations.

Read more