Urgent support needed following the pandemic's effect on cancer screening services

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Dry July call to arms will improve support for cancer patients

SYDNEY, July 14, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Dry July Foundation is urging Australians to dig even deeper this Dry July to help people affected by cancer. So many Australians could not access vital lifesaving cancer screenings and treatments because of the impact of COVID-19. Research conducted by Cancer Council revealed 42%[1] of cancer patients experienced some form of care disruption during the pandemic.

Dry July Foundation Chairman Ian Elliot said, “Each year, we raise money to support the wellness, emotional and comfort needs of Australians dealing with cancer. Sadly, because of the pandemic, the needs are growing faster than our ability to meet them. So while we are grateful to the tens of thousands of Aussies going dry this July and for the funds they will raise, we are now asking for extra help from the broader public to ensure we don’t let anyone down. People can visit dryjuly.com and donate to top up the effort of those going without a drink, and more importantly, ease the journey of those dealing with their cancer diagnoses.”

Many cancer diagnoses and treatments were delayed because of the impact of COVID-19, which has created a backlog of people seeking treatment. Additional research by Cancer Australia indicated that because of the pandemic, surgical treatments for skin cancers were down by 18%, and non-surgical treatments were down by 30%, while Mammograms and MRI investigations for breast cancer screenings fell by 37%.[2]

Additional research by the Cancer Council conducted during the pandemic showed that health professionals and people affected by cancer experienced increased psychological distress, loneliness, isolation and financial distress. The pandemic has also created widespread challenges for the broader health system, including disruptions to vital screening services, delays in treatment and increased burdens for patients and carers.

Gemma Lock, Chair of Cancer Council Australia’s Supportive Care Committee, said, “over the past two years, COVID-19 has caused interruptions to cancer screening programs.”

“Cancer patients and their families have experienced delays in diagnoses and planned surgeries, combined with the reduced access of support persons to those receiving regular treatment. People affected by cancer continue to experience feelings of separation and increased distress. Cancer Council’s 13 11 20 information and support line, proudly supported by Dry July Foundation, provides access to emotional support, information and linkage with services to help reduce this distress during a cancer diagnosis.”

Dry July Foundation challenges Australians to go alcohol-free during July to raise funds for local and national cancer support organisations, including Cancer Council, to deliver practical, tangible support services for cancer patients, their families and carers.

Ashleigh Oliver, Dry July Foundation spokesperson, said, “Whilst cancer is an individual diagnosis, it has a ripple effect through their families, friends and workplaces. Our beneficiaries deliver cancer services and programs across Australia; now more than ever, they need our funding to assure continuity of those services.”

By donating to Dry July Foundation, you can enable continued support for cancer patients, their family, friends and carers, which is so important right now.

Please visit the Dry July website; www.dryjuly.com to donate to Dry July Foundation and help meet the current need of cancer organisations across Australia.

About the Dry July Foundation

Dry July Foundation is the registered charity behind the Dry July campaign. We are dedicated to helping improve the comfort, care and wellbeing of people affected by cancer. Since the first Dry July in 2008, the Dry July Foundation has raised over $73 million dollars for people affected by cancer for more than 80 cancer organisations across Australia.

Funds raised through the Dry July campaign are distributed to local and national cancer organisations across Australia. These organisations provide support services to cancer patients, their families, and carers.

The six major beneficiaries of the Dry July campaign are Bowel Cancer Australia, Leukaemia Foundation, McGrath Foundation, Ovarian Cancer Australia, Prostate Cancer Foundation Australia and the Cancer Council.

About Cancer Council

Cancer Council is Australia’s leading cancer charity working across every aspect of every cancer. Every day, we support families affected by cancer when they need it most, speak out on behalf of the community on cancer issues, empower people to reduce their cancer risk, and find new ways to better detect and treat cancer. With your help, we’re getting closer to a cancer free future every day.

What does Dry July Foundation fund?

  • Information and Support Services like telephone lines and handbooks
  • Specialist Cancer Nurses who provide practical and emotional support throughout diagnosis and treatment
  • Wellness Programs like yoga and art therapy
  • Cancer Centre Improvements like new chemotherapy chairs and waiting room refurbishments
  • Accommodation and Transport so regional cancer patients have better access when receiving treatment
  • Comfort and Support Items like artwork and furnishings in hospitals to brighten up the space and make it more welcoming.

Notes to Editor:

  1. Research conducted by Cancer Council NSW in 2020 showed that as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, health professionals and people affected by cancer in NSW were experiencing increased signs of psychological distress, loneliness and isolation and financial distress.
    – A total of 852 people affected by cancer (683 cancer patients and survivors, 169 carers, family members and or friends) and 150 health care workers were surveyed
    – 42% of cancer patients and survivors reported experiencing some form of care disruption as a result of the pandemic
  2. Research conducted by Cancer Australia on the impact of COVID-19 on cancer related medical services and procedures in Australia in 2020. Source: https://www.canceraustralia.gov.au/the-impact-of-COVID-19-on-cancer-related-medical-services-and-procedures-in-Australia-in-2020

Other specific State Statistics:

Cancer Council VICTORIA

  • With a surge of COVID-19 cases throughout the community and conditions changing rapidly in 2021/22, the number of COVID-19 related calls to Cancer Council Victoria’s 13 11 20 Information and Support line continue to increase. During the first three weeks of 2022, more than 17 per cent (17%) of calls were COVID-19 related.
  • Connections to 13 11 20 in Victoria continue to increase, with Cancer Council Victoria nurses receiving around 9,738 requests for information and support in 2021, up 3.5% on 2020.
  • 30% of enquiries to 13 11 20 have identified psychological and emotional support needs as the main reason for getting in touch.
  • COVID-19 has meant the complexity of enquiries has intensified, leading to an increase in the average monthly call length from 14 mins pre-pandemic to a peak monthly average of 19 mins.
  • Cancer diagnoses in Victoria declined by 7 per cent – or about 2,420 fewer individual diagnoses in 2020 – likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Source: https://www.cancervic.org.au/about/media-releases/2021-media-releases/december-2021/concerning-decline-of-cancer-diagnoses-in-victoria-in-2020.html
  • Last year, the most common cancers that went undiagnosed in Victoria were cancers of the oral cavity (a 16% decline), prostate cancer (a 13% decline), melanoma (a 12% decline), and bowel cancer (a 11% decline).
  • Data from CCVIC released in 2021 revealed that up to 29% of callers to 13 11 20 in August 2021 experienced high emotion, anxiety and stress related to COVID, compared with 7% in the week before the pandemic. Source: https://www.cancervic.org.au/about/media-releases/2020-media-releases/august-2020/distress-calls-to-cancer-councils-information-and-support-line-quadruple-amid-covid-19.html

Cancer Council NSW

  • It was clear that people affected by cancer were feeling increasingly vulnerable and concerned as the COVID 19 pandemic increased in magnitude across NSW.
  • This was illustrated by the growing volume of calls to 131120 where the virus was mentioned and in the self-indicated caller distress levels which have increased from an average 5/10 in Feb 2020, to 7/10 in March/April 2020 and more recently 8/10 in July 2021.

Cancer Council QLD

  • Due to COVID-19 impacts in QLD, programs pivoted to virtual to best support those affected by cancer. CCQLD’s Wigs and Turban service and Counselling Service pivoted from face to face to virtual, to continue to emotionally and physically support those going through a cancer diagnosis.

[1] Research commissioned by Cancer Council NSW in 2020.

[2] Research commissioned by Cancer Australia in 2020: https://www.canceraustralia.gov.au/the-impact-of-COVID-19-on-cancer-related-medical-services-and-procedures-in-Australia-in-2020

 

SOURCE Dry July Foundation

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