Cancer is the largest disease burden in Victoria and the largest single cause of death in our community. It is expected that one in two Victorians will get cancer in their lifetime and one in five will die from the disease.
Australia has one of the highest cancer incidence rates in the world, and leads the world in incidence of melanoma. While our cancer survival rates are good on an international comparison, outcomes for many cancers remain unacceptably poor. Many cancers have a very poor prognosis such as lung cancer, which has a 14% five year survival rate, and pancreatic cancer, which has just 4% five year survival. All cancers urgently need new approaches to increase cure rates, improve patient experience and to control the disease more effectively.
The incidence of cancer in Australia is also increasing at an alarming rate. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates that cancer rates in Australia will rise by 40% between 2007 and 2020 to 150,000; this equates to an increase of over 30% per decade. This increase is driven by population ageing, the rising incidence of some cancer types, and medical advances in other diseases such as cardiovascular disease.
Cancer represents a life-changing burden for individuals and their families, but as Australia’s major disease burden it also impacts substantially on our health care system and our ability to pay. Cancer has all the major cost drivers for health embedded in the usual model of care, including high case volume, high use of inpatient beds, high use of pathology and imaging services, high cost drugs and expensive end of life care. In 2013/14, the cost of cancer in Victoria is estimated to be $50.5 billion. If we continue to approach cancer as we do now, the cost to Victoria will rise to $80.8 billion in 2020 (nominal terms).