News in brief: Rural residents buy hospital oncology equipment; Oncologists need education in managing side effects of hormonal therapy in EBC; Lung cancer nurses get Budget boost

Regional residents funding their own hospital oncology departments 

Residents of rural NSW are paying for chemotherapy ward refurbishment, treatment chairs and even nurse training in a ‘fully funded’ public hospital, a new report reveals.

Residents in Cowra, located 200 kilometres out of Sydney, have raised some $400,000 over two decades to help refurbish the local oncology unit and fund training for a second oncology nurse to assist with patients who would otherwise have to travel over 100 kilometres for treatment. Talking to the ABC Cowra Mayor Bill West said the Groups work has highlighted the ‘troubling issue of regional communities having to fund their own infrastructure’.

Meanwhile the former sole oncology nurse at the hospital has described the previous working conditions in the ward as ‘unworkable’.

“I used to treat two chairs in a cupboard, I could barely move in the room — it was very, very cramped and just totally unsafe,” she said.

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Oncologists need education in managing side effects of hormonal therapy in EBC

Only 16% of health professionals reported feeling ‘very confident’ managing the genitourinary symptoms (GUS) in women with early breast cancer (EBC), Australian survey results show.

That’s despite 81% of the 144 participants surveyed – 42% medical oncologists; 24% nurses; 20% breast surgeons and 8% radiation oncologists – reporting frequently encountering GUS in women with EBC and seeing patients stop endocrine therapies prematurely because of the common hormonal therapy side effect.

Meanwhile 19% reported receiving no training or education in managing GUS while 46% reported having received ‘a little’.

Investigators from the University of Sydney who carried out the survey are calling for education and training for health professionals to better address the common problem for patients with EBC.

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Lung cancer nurse Budget boost

The 2021-22 Federal Budget includes funding for five additional lung cancer nurses.

The relatively modest investment  has been welcomed by Lung Foundation Australia (LFA), which has been advocating for more lung cancer clinical nurse specialists and care coordinators to support patients through their cancer journey.

In 2020 the LFA said Australia was lagging behind many other nations, with as few as 12 full-time equivalent specialist nurses for 12,700 people with lung cancer.

“We remain committed to growing the specialised lung cancer workforce so it reaches parity with more than 520 specialised prostate and breast cancer nurses,” said CEO Mark Brooke.

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