Relay helps fight the other Big C ... cost
The Cancer Society estimates one in three New Zealanders will be diagnosed with cancer during their life and, as our population ages, its prevalence will rise.
South Island Cancer Network chairman Dr Shaun Costello says the incidence of cancer among the population has remained constant for the past 20 years.
"The frequency of cancer among people is around 4 to 6 per cent but the prevalence among particular age groups has grown significantly."
Baby boomers, for example, are considered "at risk" and are living longer than ever before. That means more people have cancer but it doesn't mean that cancer is more common, Castello says.
A 2011 Ministry of Health report estimates the annual public cost of cancer is $511 million, with each patient needing an average of six years' care.
Despite this, the Southern District Health Board says it is impossible to quantify the cost of cancer to the district.
"You take into account the medical cost, the patient cost, the cost to society," says Costello.
"It becomes hard to determine to what the physical cost is, but it is higher than what the DHB are paid to treat people."
Costello believes the types of cancers seen in Southland and Otago are no different to the rest of the country.
"Most common cancers we are seeing for women is breast and lung and, for men, prostate and colorectal cancer."
Despite the Southern DHB continually running at a deficit, the treatment of cancer has significantly improved both nationally and locally.
"The number of people who are cured of cancer is much higher and those who we can't cure are living far longer than they ever have been," Costello says.
Research has played a key part in developing new technology and medications to treat cancer.
"I am not aware of any cancer where research isn't taking place.
"We are now seeing research take place not just in priority cancers but in all areas."
Every year in Southland, Relay for Life calls on the community to enter teams which take part in a 24-hour fundraising relay at Rugby Park in Invercargill on March 1.
Last year, Relay for Life Southland raised $204,000 for cancer research and treatment.
The funds were put towards providing the cancer hotline - a support number for families and patients, transport for regional patients to Dunedin, grants for those struggling to pay medical costs and research into treatment.
This year, the Cancer Society hopes to raise $210,000 through Relay for Life.
Cancer Society Otago/Southland Division chief executive Mike Kernaghan believes the relay is incredibly important.
"It brings communities together to celebrate, remember and to fight back - it is an opportunity for the Cancer Society to engage with its wider communities and to bring a greater understanding to what we do."
All funds raised by Southland Relay for Life also stay in Southland to continue to provide supportive care to families and patients.
AT A GLANCE: THE COSTS
National cost breakdown of cancer:
- Colorectal – $69.7 million
- Respiratory - $39 million
- Melanoma – $24.4 million
- Breast – $76.8 million
- Gynaecological – $18.2 million
- Cervix – $ 4.0 million
- Prostate – $52.0 million
- Lymphoid and haematological – $68.6 million
- Other malignant – $102.9 million
- In situ – $55.9 million.
- © Fairfax NZ News