Liver cancer must be given top priority says Hepatitis Victoria

November 18, 2019

“Liver cancer is the fastest growing cause of cancer deaths in Australia, and this health challenge must be addressed and given top priority in the development of the Victorian Cancer Plan 2020-2024,” said Melanie Eagle, CEO of Hepatitis Victoria.

“We have made a submission to the Victorian Government Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)  this week which calls for specific targets that focus on the reduction of liver cancer and its earlier detection, because without concrete goals liver cancer is going to spread.

“Our submission outlines a series of measures accompanied by implementation drivers which, if enacted, could transform the well-being of  people with liver disease and liver cancer. I thank the DHHS for giving us the opportunity to make this submission and look forward to hearing how the plan evolves,” she added.

Liver cancer has the fastest growing mortality rate of all cancers in Australia. With a five-year survival rate of 18%, there were 1,864 deaths caused by liver cancer in Australia in 2016. This is significantly higher than the number of deaths caused by the road toll (1,293 in 2016).

The biggest known risk factor for primary liver cancer is viral hepatitis, with an estimated 71% of cases of liver cancer globally being a consequence of either hepatitis B and or hepatitis C. Although mortality rates are decreasing for most cancer types, liver cancer is one notable exception. Despite recent advances in cures for hepatitis C and vaccination programs for hepatitis B, the mortality rate for liver cancer continues to increase.

Hepatitis Victoria’s submission to the Victorian Cancer Plan 2020-2024 calls for the following key considerations:

• Liver cancer be given a priority focus with its increasing prevalence and mortality and morbidity rates

• The focus on liver cancer must be accompanied by implementation drivers with targets for the reduction of liver cancer rates and earlier detection of liver cancer, as well as measures of prevalence of liver cancer and the contributing factors such as viral hepatitis and other liver diseases

• For these implementation drivers to be effective, an outcomes framework with clear monitoring and associated reporting of the earlier detection and incidence rate of liver cancer must be included

• To effectively reduce the impact of diseases like cancer, development and implementation of strategic plans such as this must take an approach that includes clinicians and researchers.

• As importantly, they must take prevention matters into consideration by engaging with the affected communities and drawing on the reflections of those with lived experience

• Awareness raising campaigns and education must be available and tailored for stakeholders, whether they be specialists, allied health practitioners or consumers.

Hepatitis Victoria emphasises that there must be a commitment within the Victorian cancer plan 2020-2024 to adequately resource the work required (health promotion, education, stigma reduction, etc) to undertake the identified priority actions and achieve the established targets. Along with ensuring accountabilities are identified for all charged with achieving the plan’s outcome targets.

Hepatitis Victoria encourages the Victorian Government to utilise the community and not for profit sector’s vast experience with health promotion, health prevention, screening, testing and treatment promotion to reach those who need it most when implementing the Victorian cancer plan 2020-2024.

Read the full submission.

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