Talking about cancer on World Cancer Day

The importance of talking about cancer was emphasised by Tasmanian Catholic priest, Father Richard Ross, at an information session held at the Cancer Support Centre Launceston on 4 February 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, 46, 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.”

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

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Penny Egan (Cancer Council Tasmania CEO) with Father Richard Ross