Rare Cancers Australia launches Cancer is Cancer campaign.

RCA ambassador and Paralympic gold medallist Kelly Cartwright says every cancer patient deserves the right to any drug which could help them "sustain their lives". Photo: supplied
RCA ambassador and Paralympic gold medallist Kelly Cartwright says every cancer patient deserves the right to any drug which could help them "sustain their lives". Photo: supplied

All Australians deserve a fair go when it comes to their health- but is everyone getting it?

Rare Cancers Australia (RCA) has launched a new campaign called Cancer is Cancer which highlights the difficulties for people diagnosed with a rare or less than common cancer (RLC) when it comes to accessing treatment.

According to the Rare Solutions A Time to Act report there are difficulties conducting research for rare cancers which include funding, small patient numbers and clinical trial design.

Connecting patients, clinicians and researchers to improve treatment options was another identified in the report as was improving the affordability of treatment for people with RLC

Together with global advertising group J. Walter Thompson, RCA has created a video which features a series of RLC patients at various stages of their cancer treatment and journey.

The video aims to raise awareness and educate Australians on the ongoing hurdles patients living with a rare cancer face. 

Cancer does not discriminate against race, age or religion, and RCA founder and chief executive Richard Vines said rare cancer patients should be afforded the same level of access to affordable treatment options as common cancer patients.

Rare and less common cancers make up 30 per cent of all cancer diagnosis, yet they account for 50 per cent of all deaths.

Each year 52,000 Aussies are diagnosed with a RLC cancer and sadly 25,000 Australians die within five years.

Mr Vines said this was 25,000 too many.

“It really should not matter what cancer you get. Cancer is cancer.

“RLC cancers destroy lives, and where treatment is available for such cancers it is often unaffordable. There is very little financial support available for sufferers of RLC cancers, and some are forced to sell everything they own to access treatment, use life savings and superannuation and crowdfund to survive.

“While we’ve seen an increasing awareness of RLC cancers and government implementations to improve the lives of those living with RLC cancers, the fact remains that the 52,000 Australians diagnosed with a rare or less common form of cancer every year do not have the same access to treatment compared to those with common cancers.”

Mr Vines said he hoped the video would inspire action.

The Rare Solutions report produced several recommendations to help improve treatment options.

One solution was for the Australian government to invest more in local investigator led clinical trials as well as pharmaceutical companies working to expand global clinical trials to include more RLC patients.

Rare or less common cancers:

  • A rare cancer is defined as a cancer type found in 6 or less per 100,000 Australians per year
  • A less common cancer is defined as a cancer type found in 12 or less per 100,000 Australians per year
  • Every year 52,000 Australians are diagnosed with a rare or less common cancer
  • Rare and less common cancers make up about 30 per cent of all diagnoses but account for 50 per cent of cancer deaths in Australia

RLC cancers affect all ages and claim the lives of:

  • One Australian child every four days
  • One Gen Y every day
  • 10 Gen Xs every day
  • More Australians aged 60-69, than any other cause of death

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