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Monday, 9 February 2015
Page: 181


Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan) (11:46): I rise to speak in support of this motion by the member for Shortland and I thank her for bringing it to the House today. Cancer in all its types exacts a terrible price in Australia—emotionally, physically and financially. According to the Cancer Council, by the age of 85 one in two men and one in three women will have been diagnosed with some form of cancer. Some 128,000 new cancer cases are diagnosed each year. That is 14 cases an hour—and that number is rising. Thankfully, in Australia 66 per cent of people diagnosed with cancer are still alive after five years. According to doctors and the Cancer Council, the key is early diagnosis and treatment.

That is what makes being aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer so important. Unfortunately, the symptoms are so commonplace that many women simply ignore them until it is too late. With no effective screening methods available and the symptoms being so commonplace, ovarian cancer is hard to detect early, which is why it often presents after it has spread. That is why it is so important that women are aware not only of those symptoms but of the other risk factors in developing ovarian cancer. Some of those risk factors include, as my colleagues have said before, being over 50 years of age, family history, changes in the genes BRCA1 or BRCA2, childlessness, infertility, having your first child after the age of 30, never taking oral contraceptives, and using oestrogen-only hormone replacement therapy or fertility treatment.

If you have symptoms and these other risk factors, it is vital you get to your doctor for a check-up, as the survival rate of this cancer depends on whether or not it has spread from the ovaries. If it is contained within the ovaries, the survival rate is 93 per cent after five years, but that drops to 30 per cent if it has spread. That drop in survival rate is why I particularly support point 6 of this motion. We must do more to educate women to be more aware of the symptoms and risk factors.

We must help researchers to develop more efficient and effective diagnostics tools. Of course, that means making more funding available. To do that, I ask the opposition to support its own proposed budget measures that are before the Senate. As both the head of Treasury and the Governor of the Reserve Bank told cabinet last week, a return to surplus will not occur in the foreseeable future if we do not address the $110 million a week this government needs to borrow to pay the interest on Labor's legacy of debt. I am certain that researchers in the field of ovarian cancer would enjoy just one week of the government's interest payments for their research funds.

This is the reality of the vandalism wreaked on our economy by Labor. Labor's debt is quite literally preventing more research funding. According to the Cancer Council, the direct cost of cancer is $3.8 billion in direct healthcare costs alone. This does not include time lost for treatment and recovery; nor can an adequate figure be placed on the suffering of victims and their families. To support women with gynaecological cancers requiring care, the government provides more than $1.5 million of funding each year through Cancer Australia for the Maintaining support for women with gynaecological cancers program. The program aims to support health professionals to deliver evidence based multidisciplinary care to women affected by gynaecological cancers and to provide information support for women, their families and carers.

As Minister Cash says, given how much we still need to understand about ovarian cancer, I hope that all Australians can come together during Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and support women battling to overcome this disease. I commend the motion to the House.