By the age of 85, one in two Australian men and women will be diagnosed with cancer (source: Cancer Council). It’s also estimated that 145,000 new cancer cases will be diagnosed in Australia just this year (150,000 by 2020 alone).
Although those numbers are just estimates (and who knows a miracle treatment might be discovered and widely implemented), the rise of cancer cases seems to be inevitable especially because of ageing population and success in avoiding other leading causes of death. In addition, with or without cancer the healthcare sector will still face serious challenges because of the rising number of patients who will require a high quality level of care.
Improving the quality of cancer care
It’s especially the case with elderly patients who now have limited mobility due to cancer and physical conditions. Hygiene and overall medical care are challenges to be dealt with on a daily basis whether at home or at the healthcare facility. The overlap of oncology and palliative care has made caring for the patients difficult and complex.
Our ageing population also puts forth new challenges when it comes to having enough funds and facilities. Many hospitals and facilities might not be 100% ready to accommodate the influx of new patients. Although billions of dollars have been already invested in cancer and palliative care, the treatment and care may not still be enough to optimise the experience of each patient. There’s also the challenge of end of life care wherein the goal is to make the transition more positive for everyone.
In other words, improving the quality of cancer care is a huge challenge even in developed societies. It requires an end-to-end approach from admittance down to full treatment and recovery. We also have to think about the journey or treatment experience of each patient. For example, many patients will spend extended periods of time in a sitting or lying position (either because of the cancer itself or the combination of therapies). Specialists (including medical oncologists, surgical oncologists and radiation oncologists) should also have enough time to provide personalised attention to each patient because of the patients’ individual unique conditions.
We’ve already come a long way in improving the numbers in recovery and treatment (approximately 69% of people diagnosed with cancer in Australia are still alive five years after receiving a cancer diagnosis). But what about the patient’s daily experience? This is hard to quantify and observe because it also depends on each patient’s expectations.
The key thing here is to focus on the patient’s daily experience (not just in improving recovery and treatment statistics). This is a very trying time for the patients so if their daily experiences were somehow improved, it will mean a lot both on the patients, their carers and families.