Call for urgent national action against blood cancer

September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month, and this year, as the country marks its 10th instalment, Australia’s Blood Cancer Taskforce is reinforcing the crucial need for strategic national collaboration to help turn the tables on the deadly disease.

This is in light of new figures showing a sharp rise in the number of Australians impacted by the disease.

According to reports, the incidence of blood cancer in Australia has jumped by 38% since 2010, with 17,321 people expected to be diagnosed with the disease in 2020, compared with 12,493 10 years ago.

Reportedly, the number of Australians losing their life to blood cancer has also risen from 4,440 in 2010, to 5,631 in 2020, which represents a 27% increase.

“Through the work of the Blood Cancer Taskforce and the National Action Plan, we will have a real opportunity to change the face of treatment, care and ultimately survival outcomes for Australians facing a blood cancer diagnosis,” says Director of Cancer Medicine, Director Department of Haematology, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Royal Melbourne Hospital, Professor John Seymour AM.

“Advances in treatment and care over the past 40 years have transformed the way Australians live with a blood cancer. However, with blood cancer incidence rates continuing to rise, we need to build on this success to prevent Australians losing their life to the disease.

“For instance, we know survival outcomes are 5% poorer in regional areas compared to metropolitan areas, and we know there is an 8% variation in survival outcomes between states and territories.

“By more consistently delivering treatment that has been proven to work, and is already funded in Australia, we could reduce mortality by 13% and prevent 22,000 deaths by 2035.”

Co-chaired by Professor Seymour and Chairman, Leukaemia Foundation of Australia Dr Carrie Hillyard AM, The Blood Cancer Taskforce, which was established about a year ago, is unique collaboration of some of the country’s top blood cancer experts and leaders and has been tasked with developing the National Strategic Action Plan for Blood Cancer.

The Blood Cancer Taskforce

According to Dr Hillyard, once the National Action Plan is released and implemented, the aim is to see zero lives lost to blood cancer by 2035 and to help improve the blood cancer journey for all Australians diagnosed with the disease.

“There are gaps in supportive care and access to treatment for Australians diagnosed with blood cancer, with less than 50% of people living with blood cancer given a written care plan, and only 1 in 5 people having access to a clinical trial[1],” says Dr Hillyard.

“The National Action Plan will be a blueprint to not only save lives, but to bridge these gaps and better meet the needs of every Australian diagnosed with this disease, whoever they are and wherever they live.

“We are excited to be so close to launching the country’s first National Strategic Action Plan for Blood Cancer, knowing that once it is released we can begin work on implementing its recommendations, knowing our efforts will achieve significant and lasting change for people living with blood cancer, their families, carers and the Australian community.”

The Blood Cancer Taskforce has delivered the National Action Plan to the Federal Government and will continue to work alongside the Government to support the launch of the Plan soon.



Images: Leukaemia Foundation