BREAST CANCER: Breast Cancer Network Australia's chief executive officer, Christine Nolan.
BREAST CANCER: Breast Cancer Network Australia's chief executive officer, Christine Nolan.

BCNA target support for metastatic cancer sufferers

EXTENDING the life of an Australian with metastatic breast cancer is possible with a new drug and better support services.

Breast Cancer Network Australia need community support in their bid to convince the government to add palbociclib to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

"We have made incredible strides in how people are treated and supported when they are diagnosed with breast cancer," BCNA chief executive officer Ms Christine Nolan said.

"One of our focuses now is metastatic cancer.

"This is cancer that has spread from their breast and perhaps gone to their brain, liver, bones, lungs, which are the most common sites.

"It will kill them ultimately."

Ms Nolan said this group haven't had the focus that people with ordinary breast cancer, who can be treated most successfully, have had.

"Survival rates are at 90% where 20 years ago they were at 72%. There have been massive improvements," she said.

But for the people whose breast cancer has spread to other parts and are facing a grim prognosis, there is less for them.

If palbociclib is included on the PBS it becomes an affordable option to treat hormone receptor positive, HER2-negative metastatic breast cancer, extending the time before the cancer spreads and it doesn't result in common cancer treatment side effects such as hair loss and nausea.

Until the drug is approved for sale in Australia, it can be bought from overseas or an eligible person can receive it when participating in a clinical trial.

Ms Nolan says BCNA has available to metastatic breast cancer sufferers -

  • Its Hope and Hurdle kit which has recently been updated with a personalised to a person's particular cancer situation.
  • A helpline which people can call to talk about their concerns.
  • The telephone counselling service, which is supported by experienced oncology counsellors, and set up specifically for metastatic sufferers and their family members.

On May 12, BCNA is hosting a meeting among members of key Australian cancer support groups to talk about establishing a metastatic cancer alliance.

"We will be talking about what we can do as a group to help people with metastatic cancer be better supported across the nation," Ms Nolan said.

"I think part of the solution will be metastatic cancer care coordination nurses across Australia."