Despite largely being preventable, liver cancer is the fastest-growing cause of cancer death in Australia. However, a decision by the Federal government as part of this week’s budget potentially brings some hope to some of the over 2,000 Australians each year at risk of dying from liver cancer. A new form of treatment, combining two drugs, has been approved for listing on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, to be available for the cost of a normal script from 1 November 2020. Melanie Eagle, CEO of LiverWELL, applauded the decision. “It is time that the seriousness of liver cancer received the attention it deserved – with research into new treatments and then making them available”.
Over 6 million Australians are living with chronic liver disease. Without early detection and treatment these people are potentially at risk of developing cirrhosis and liver disease. “An increase in treatment options for this silent killer which has been increasing in Australia by 4-5% per year for the past three decades is welcome” Ms Eagle said. However, Ms Eagle warns that this treatment is not a cure or a panacea. “There are limitations on who the treatment is suitable for, and the benefits to life expectancy” she said. Meanwhile, between 1982 and 2019 there has been a 378% increase in liver cancer prevalence and a 204% increase in mortality associated with liver cancer. Much more needs to be done so that people know how to avoid various forms of liver disease and consider being tested, and meanwhile we need health care professionals to proactively offer testing and treatment. This needs to be part of the mainstream conversation about our health. “We cannot forget that the only way that we will really turn this around and stop the couple of thousands of unnecessary Australian deaths each year, is through awareness and early detection” Ms Eagle warned.
Enquiries: Melanie Eagle
CEO, LiverWELL incorporating Hepatitis Victoria)