Too many Australians are missing out on the cancer treatment they need


John, 69

Brisbane, QLD

 In 2013 I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer and underwent a radical prostatectomy. 

I then needed radiation therapy as a necessary further treatment, five days a week for seven weeks.

Fortunately for me radiation oncology proved successful and now, with a management program six years on, I live a healthy and confident life.

I describe my successful radiation therapy outcome as ‘Gold Standard’ treatment. 

Without access to that necessary radiation therapy close to home (only a fifteen-minute drive), my patient experience would have been a lot different, and without doubt far worse.

It troubles me that so many cancer patients in rural Australia are disadvantaged when it comes to radiation therapy.

Surely no patient, their families and carers should have to worry about travelling long distances for treatment. 

I know first-hand how life-changing radiation therapy can be. 

Rural patients should not be put at risk simply because of where they live. 

Let’s ensure all governments, Federal and State, acknowledge this.

Tell Canberra to invest in radiation therapy for regional Australia. 




Robert and Diane Conneeley, 70 and 71

Margaret River, WA

We are a happily married couple, recently retired, who celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary last year.

My husband, Rob, has been a surfer from age 11, and I from age 15 spent endless days on the beach watching him surf. 

When he was younger he surfed professionally around the world and understands that it was his ‘life in the sun’ that helped to damage his skin.

In those days we were quite unaware of the damage sun can do.

For the last 20 years Rob has been battling sun cancer, freezing Squamous Cell Carcinomas (SCCs) and having surgery for two melanomas.

Eighteen months ago he discovered a SCC on his temple. 

The Busselton Skin Clinic directed him to the Genesis Oncology Centre in Bunbury, where within four weeks of daily radiation the SCC Was eliminated entirely.

When a much more significant and dangerous outbreak of SCCs were found in his neck he had surgery with six weeks of radiation to follow. 

The surgery required travel to Perth, and the upheaval for me to be staying with relatives in Perth for two weeks was very difficult. 

It was a relief to be offered radiation therapy in Bunbury, 90 minutes away. 

We are sad that some patients in outlying places are unable to receive this healing treatment, and pray that our government could provide more radiation therapy centres for seriously ill folk. 

Tell Canberra to invest in radiation therapy for regional Australia. 




Wayne, 74

Burleigh Heads, QLD

I am a radio presenter working in Burleigh Heads. 

In 2016 I was diagnosed with Merkel cell carcinoma, and had radiation therapy treatment at John Flynn Hospital/Genesis treatment centre. 

I was able to sleep in my own bed at night, be close to family and friends as well as continue working along with a program of light exercise. 

Throughout my new lifestyle incorporating radiation therapy I was able to remain positive and retain a sense of hope for the future as I went through six weeks of treatment to the neck region. 

The trip to the Tugun centre I was using took a mere 20 minutes and was manageable and stress-free.

If my treatment had not been available to me, I would have had to face more invasive, difficult and unpleasant treatments such as surgery and chemotherapy.

It is of serious concern to me that so many cancer patients live in rural and regional parts of Australia and don’t have easy access to treatment.

 My prospects for a successful treatment outcome would have been very poor if my postcode was in outback Australia.

With an estimated 5 million people living in remote and semi-remote Australia, it should be a major priority for Government to improve health services for people no matter where they live.

Tell Canberra to invest in radiation therapy for regional Australia. 




Natalie, 38

Mackay, QLD

Just when I thought I had this whole mum, wife and work thing sorted, life has thrown me a curve ball, and that’s curve with a capital C!

I’m a wife, mum and I’m also a primary school teacher. I’m a planner. I love to have weeks set out in front of me. 

When diagnosed with a large, aggressive breast cancer, that curve ball hit me right in the face. 

This disease isn’t glamorous. The physical toll and loss doesn’t compare to the mental toll this has taken. 

When they told me I would be able to receive radiation treatment here in Mackay all that added pressure was immediately taken away. 

I’m so grateful I will be able to stay in Mackay for all my treatment. 

I have endured surgery, sixteen exhausting chemotherapy treatments and 25 sessions of radiation.

The opening of Icon Cancer Centre has made the most difficult time of my life that bit easier. I wasn’t separated from my husband and children and I had my all-important support network right at my side.

The alternative was to sit in a hotel room in a strange town feeling isolated from my loved ones. 

Tell Canberra to invest in radiation therapy for regional Australia. 





Toowoomba, QLD

Back in June 2017 I went for a test to be sure I didn’t have prostate cancer. 

I regarded it as a formality as I didn’t feel I had anything wrong with me, but after several tests it turned out I did. 

My mother and one of my brothers both passed away from cancer and another brother had a kidney removed because of cancer. 

The doctors organised for me to have radiation therapy at Icon Cancer Centre at St Andrew’s Hospital. 

I didn’t know what to expect about it. But the staff explained all the proceedings to me and I was also informed I would be receiving my treatment on the latest machine, and the first of its kind in Australia.

Most of my appointments were at 9 am. I would get there for my treatment at about 8.55, and be out of the door and on my way home at 9.15, and be home by about 9.35. 

I went for treatment 39 times and would be away from home for only an hour or sometimes a few minutes more. 

If I had had to go to Brisbane, it would have taken me most of the day down and back, and I consider myself so lucky being able to have it in Toowoomba.

I can’t really put into words how grateful I am for my treatment here in Toowoomba. 

Of course you don’t want to be getting treatment in the first place, but I also felt privileged to be able to get the latest treatment in my own town and it was nice to know you have access, as well as the right people looking after you.





Adelaide, SA

I am a father of two living in Adelaide.

I was diagnosed with oesophagus cancer a few years ago when I was working as the Managing Director of a defence company, in charge of the Asia Pacific. 

My diagnosis meant I was unable to work for some time as I was treated for cancer.

I had surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. 

I elected to have radiation therapy privately because my only other option was to travel a greater distance to a public facility where there were estimated wait times of up to six weeks.

If I did not receive early treatment my oesophagus could have blocked and I would have needed tube feeding. 

As you can imagine, I was very grateful to have the option of going private and being seen quickly with very efficient daily visits. 

My point is that there is an important role to play for all cancer providers, both public and private, because it’s not until you have been diagnosed with a life threatening illness that you can appreciate the importance of immediate care close to home.

I didn’t know much about radiation therapy prior to my diagnosis, but have since learned that it contributes to 40% of all cancer cures worldwide. It also helps reduce pain in non-curative cases. 

I feel strongly that all Australians should know the benefits of this important treatment modality and be entitled to care close to home. 

Farming is one of the pillars of our economy and I know all too well that farmers would struggle to leave the land for large periods of time to make the daily commute for radiation therapy. 




Wendy, 36

Lang Lang, Victoria

I work with Agriculture Victoria in Emergency Management. 

In 2015, at age 32, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

After surgery and chemotherapy, I underwent 6 weeks of radiation therapy with GenesisCare in Berwick.

Throughout all my treatments I was able to sleep in my own bed, had my support network of family and friends and could continue to work and maintain a normal life at a time when it felt like everything was ready to fall apart at any minute.

Having two young children, five and three at the time, it was important for me to ensure that life carried on. 

With my radiation therapy close to home, I could arrange appointments while the kids were at childcare.

I have seen first hand through a close relative the impact of living in a rural town and having to uproot to somewhere else for six weeks to undergo radiation therapy.

She did not have the sanctuary of her own home. She had to leave her family and friends, the most important support network you can have.

My trip to Berwick was a stress-free thirty minutes. 

I had to rely on family and friends for transport to and from the centre. Had it been further away, it would have disrupted their lives even further.

Surely we can all agree that people shouldn’t have to drive an hour or more to receive a treatment that could be life altering?

 Tell Canberra to invest in radiation therapy for regional Australia. 





Awaba NSW

A few years ago, during my maternity leave, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

At the time, I had just been through 11 years of IVF and was really enjoying being the mother of a 6 month old baby boy.

I am a drug and alcohol counsellor, but had been unable to work since my diagnosis. I was undergoing radiation therapy at a private practice close to my home in Awaba, New South Wales. 

Radiation therapy was an essential part of my care plan, but I was not aware of its many merits prior to my diagnosis. It is non-invasive, painless and much more modern than I had expected. 

I’ve been really lucky. I elected to go private because I had very recently helped care for my mother-in-law who actually also had breast cancer, and we spent long periods of time waiting in a large busy hospital. Having recently had a new baby, care close to home with short wait times was really important to me. 

The daily treatment took no more than 15 minutes and I was able to go home afterwards and go about my day. It allowed me to live a life around the treatment. 

Without access to radiation therapy close to home, my whole experience of cancer would have been completely different.

My only other option would have been to travel an additional hour to my closest public facility. I would also need to pay substantial amounts for petrol and parking fees, not to mention the exhaustion of daily travel and being away from my baby.

Too many people don’t know about the benefits of radiation therapy and so don’t access it, which could potentially reduce their survival outlook. 

I am originally from a regional area and absolutely know that some people would forgo this life saving treatment if it was too far to travel. 

It’s not right that certain patients are at a disadvantage when it comes to their cancer treatment because of where they live or because of the information they’ve been given.

I am very grateful to have benefited from radiation therapy close to home and can happily report I am no in good health and enjoying family life.






Authorised by A/Prof. Peter O’Brien, Radiation Therapy Advisory Group,
c/o Level 12, 54 Miller Street, North Sydney, NSW.