People with disability who face barriers to accessing health care for cancer diagnosis and treatment are part of the focus of World Cancer Day today.
The international day is held on 4 February each year and this year’s theme is Close the gap in cancer care.
The gap in cancer care is caused by barriers to accessing the best prevention, diagnosis and treatment, which lead to noticeable differences in the risks of developing and surviving cancer for some groups of people compared to others.
As part of World Cancer Day, organisations and individuals around the world are acting to raise awareness of the barriers to cancer care faced by people in a range of demographics, including people with disability, people with low socio-economic status and those facing stigma and discrimination.
In Australia, people with disability living with a lower socio-economic status due to the cost of disability supports, medications and consumables statistically have a lower survival rate after a cancer diagnosis, according to the National Cancer Control Indicators.
The indicators show the rate of survival for the five years after diagnosis of cancer increases if a person has a higher socio-economic status.
To raise awareness of the economical and social barriers to cancer care, Cancer Australia is supporting World Cancer Day and working towards change.
CEO of Cancer Australia, Professor Dorothy Keefe, says the organisations is also part of coordinated actions to improve policy and strategies which are the foundation of equitable care.
“Australia has among the best cancer outcomes in the world but we do not have equity in outcomes for all,” Professor Keefe says.
“People with disability are among the vulnerable groups for whom outcomes need to be improved.
“Cancer Australia is developing Australia’s first ever national cancer plan (the Australian Cancer Plan) which will have a particular focus on improving outcomes to ensure that no one is left behind.
“Broad consultation is underway and we look forward to setting the goals for success.”
The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), which runs World Cancer Day, says half of the world’s population doesn’t have full access to essential health services like cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
It also says access has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced more than half a billion people around the world into extreme poverty through added health care costs.
During the pandemic cancer screening and treatment in countries across the world have also been interrupted and for people worried about leaving home due to the risk of catching COVID-19, including many people with disability, accessing cancer services has not been easy.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of UICC Dr Cary Adams says World Cancer Day aims to put the world back into a position to continue the leap and bounds in improvements to cancer care seen in the years leading up to the pandemic.
“As individuals, as communities, we can and must come together and break down barriers. We have achieved a lot in the last decade in cancer care and control around the world but not addressing inequities in society is slowing our progress,” Dr Adams says.
“Closing the care gap is about fairness, dignity and fundamental rights to allow everyone to lead longer lives in better health.”
For more information about the development of the Australian Cancer Plan and how to contribute, visit Cancer Australia’s website.