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World Lung Cancer Day: Lung cancer kills five Kiwi every day

Auckland, 31 July 2019: Today, five New Zealanders will die from lung cancer. A state that the Lung Foundation New Zealand is calling a national health emergency and one that requires urgent corrective action from the Government.

On World Lung Cancer Day, (August 1) the Lung Foundation says lung cancer treatment needs to be a government priority as lung cancer is New Zealand’s biggest cancer killer. Every year more people die of lung cancer than breast cancer, prostate cancer and melanoma cancer combined.

“Sadly, more than 1800 Kiwis die from lung cancer every year – five people every day. This is five times the national road toll and it is a national health emergency,” says Philip Hope, Chief Executive of Lung Foundation New Zealand.

“Right now, almost 1900 patients in New Zealand do not have an effective first line treatment for advanced lung cancer.

“We consider it unacceptable, that almost 80% of patients diagnosed with lung cancer in New Zealand die in the first 12 months. New Zealand has a third world approach to prevention and treatment of lung cancer.”

“Many lung cancers are now treatable with targeted therapies and immunotherapies, such as KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) which is a significant breakthrough compared to the current standards of care,” says Chris Atkinson, Medical Director & Associate Professor of Oncology, Lung Foundation.

“These treatments have considerably less toxicity than standard chemotherapy and significantly improve survival rates, giving patients more time with their families.

“Unfortunately, New Zealand lags along way behind the bulk of OECD countries with its funding of targeted therapies and immunotherapies in the public health system”.

“This inequity is unacceptable, and it is causing unprecedented financial toxicity for lung cancer patients and their families, who are being forced to either self-fund their treatment/s, raise funds, or face premature death”.

“We’re aware as of May 2019, 10,000 people have donated more than $1.2 million dollars via the Givealittle platform in support of a friend or loved one fundraising for access to lung cancer treatment. This simply highlights that New Zealand is not keeping pace with what is a rapidly changing environment.”

Julie Robinson, a 42-year-old mother of two from Gisborne was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer in December 2018. She is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment through the public health system but is also raising funds for other immunotherapies such as KEYTRUDA, as her type of cancer is known to be resistant to chemotherapy treatment.

She says the lack of funding and support for lung cancer patients has a significant impact.

“It’s not just about me. It’s about my kids and my parents who support me. The hardest thing is that the system could be changed and that would make a huge difference for me and my family,” says Julie.

Key Lung Cancer Facts:
• Everyone with lungs has a chance of getting lung cancer
• Early detection and effective treatment will improve survival
• Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death for men aged between 45-74 years and women 65-74 years.
• One out of every five people diagnosed with lung cancer have never smoked.
• Lung cancer rates are four times higher in Maori women and three times higher in Maori men than non-Maori
• One Maori dies every day from lung cancer

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