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Tuesday, 14 October 2008
Page: 8968

Mr TURNOUR (3:13 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Health and Ageing. Will the minister inform the House of any recent action taken by the government to support women with breast cancer, particularly in my electorate of Leichhardt?

Ms ROXON (Minister for Health and Ageing) —I thank the member for his question. I was pleased to be joined yesterday by Glenn McGrath and many members of this House, from both sides and the crossbenches, to announce the location of 44 breast care nurses across the country, to be trained and employed by the McGrath Foundation, who will provide improved services in local communities close to people’s homes. This $12 million commitment will support breast care nurses working in towns like Bathurst; Geelong; Cairns, in the electorate of the member who asked the question; Wagga Wagga; Victor Harbor, in the electorate of the member for Mayo; Campbelltown; Gladstone; Ballarat; Mackay; Coffs Harbour; Sale; Roma; Kingaroy; and Horsham. I could go on and list the whole 44. Those 44 communities are going to benefit from having breast care specialist nurses in their communities, close to where people are diagnosed with breast cancer.

We know the sad facts are that more than 12,000 women have a diagnosis of breast cancer each year. These nurses will provide vital care for women facing this life-threatening condition. They provide vital information. They are specifically trained in dealing with breast cancer. They provide practical and emotional support. I would like to quote Jane McGrath from when she was rediagnosed with cancer in 2003 and first had access to a breast care nurse. I want to quote what she said about the value of a breast care nurse, because the announcement yesterday that we are able to provide this service to 44 more communities across the community is part of a tribute to her and Glenn. She said that the breast care nurse was:

Someone who could answer the questions only a nurse could answer whilst also being the support I needed to unload my frustrations and emotions.

Having access to a breast care nurse allowed me to be Jane McGrath, the friend, the mother and the wife—not just Jane McGrath, the breast cancer survivor.

It was Jane McGrath’s view that breast cancer nurses play this very valuable role, and I am very pleased that the government is going to be able to work with the McGrath Foundation to provide this vital support in so many communities. Eighty-nine per cent of these nurses are going to be located in rural and regional areas where the current services are lightest on the ground.

Of course breast cancer is a terrible disease that we are determined to fight in all ways that we can. This is just one of a number of initiatives that have recently been announced by the government, including our instigation of a reimbursement scheme of up to $400 for women who have had a mastectomy following breast cancer. It will be easily available across the country through Medicare and will also provide help and support to many women who have gone through, and suffered greatly from, breast cancer.

The government continues to provide 90 per cent of the funding for the National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre, a world-leading research centre fostering an evidence based approach to diagnosis, treatment and support. I was pleased to be able to announce at the start of the month that the government is investing $2½ million to support one of the largest ever research studies into breast cancer which will involve 100,000 women—and may I take this opportunity to encourage people to participate in that research if they are eligible—and a further $2½ million is going to be contributed by the National Breast Cancer Foundation itself.

Last Friday I, like many other members in this parliament, hosted a local event in my electorate: a BreastWest yum cha lunch. I want to mention this because I was struck by a comment that was made at this fundraiser in support of the Sunshine breast services. The local breast surgeon, Dr Meron Pitcher, said, ‘Twenty-five years ago, a diagnosis of breast cancer was a death sentence.’ Thankfully, due to advances in medication and treatments, this is no longer the case, and I hope that in another 25 years we will look back and see a further reduction in lives claimed by breast cancer and an improvement in the quality of life, vastly assisted by specialist staff such as these 44 breast care nurses that will start across the country very soon.

Mr Rudd —Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.