Talking about cancer

 4 February 2014

A Tasmanian Catholic priest has emphasised the importance of talking about cancer at an information session today organised by Cancer Council Tasmania to mark World Cancer Day.

Father Richard Ross of Launceston said when he was diagnosed with cancer in March 2010 he decided to tell his parishioners, family and friends as much as he could about his disease.

“The cancer diagnosis was a bolt out of the blue for me because I was fit and healthy and I hadn’t been sick,” Father Ross said.

“I had just walked the Kokoda Track. I didn’t tick any of the boxes because I had never smoked, ate a healthy diet and had no family history of cancer.

“It was important to be up front with parishioners to tell them the facts about my cancer and my treatment along the way.

“It has always been my job to help others and I have had people say to me that by talking about my cancer I have given them courage and insight to deal with their own diagnosis.”

In the past four years Father Ross, 46, has had surgery and chemotherapy for bowel and liver cancer.

Cancer Council CEO Penny Egan said the focus on World Cancer Day this year was on dispelling four myths about cancer.

Mrs Egan said the four myths are:

  • We don’t need to talk about cancer
  • There are no signs or symptoms of cancer
  • There is nothing I can do about cancer
  • I don’t have the right to cancer care.

“All four are just that – myths,” Mrs Egan said.

“We do need to talk about cancer, we must act on the signs and symptoms, we can make lifestyle changes to minimise the risk and every Tasmanian has access to treatment.

“Early diagnosis is a key factor when determining the likelihood of whether a person will survive

“The benefits of early detection for cancers, including breast, cervical, skin, oral and colorectal cancers are indisputable.”

Mrs Egan said the survival rate for Tasmanians with cancer is improving.

“There has been a marked improvement in the five year survival rate.

“The most recent 2010 statistics indicate that the highest survival rates was for thyroid cancer (97.9) per cent, melanoma (91.6 per cent), prostate cancer (96.5 per cent) and breast cancer (89.1 per cent).

“Survival was slightly higher in males than females, and higher for those aged under 65 when diagnosed.”

Today’s session also provided information debunking the other myths.

For media enquiries please contact: Sue Bailey on 0417 550 279