A call from a lung cancer nurse is something nobody ever wants to receive.

But the alternative means facing Australia's deadliest cancer without dedicated support.

Sadly, for thousands of Australian's, that's the reality.

There are just 12 lung cancer nurses for the 12,700 people diagnosed every year.

That's less than one nurse per 1000 patients.

READ MORE: Mum-of-two, 37, with lung cancer demands action over disease

And charity the Lung Foundation is calling on the Australian Government to help in the next budget.

"It's time to give Australians living with lung cancer a fair go," Lung Foundation Australia CEO Mark Brooke said.

READ MORE: Breaking News and Live Updates

In comparison, there are 40 nurses nationwide for prostate cancer patients.

While a total of 16,700 men are told they have that disease every year, it has a much higher survival rate.

Lung cancer kills triple the number of people - almost 9000 annually.

And for the 17,000 for Aussies diagnosed with breast cancer every year, there are has 4000 dedicated nurses - one nurse per four people.

That's despite lung cancer killing more woman every year than breast and ovarian cancer combined.

Lack of lung cancer nurses 'negligent'

Melbourne-based Mary Duffy, 59, was the very first lung cancer specialist nurse, starting the job almost 20 years ago.

A tissue specimen from a patient with lung cancer, which is Australia's biggest cancer killer.

The Advanced Practice Lung Cancer Nurse Consultant calls patients across Victoria when they're suspected to have, or have just been diagnosed with the disease.

Ms Duffy, who is based at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, says they're "bewildered, overwhelmed and upset" at what they're facing.

However, Ms Duffy and other nurses are able to provide constant support and information either in person at cancer clinics, or on the phone.

"People say 'I don't understand what's going on, what's happening," she told 9news.com.au.

"I say to them; 'My job is to help you make sense, and enter this world you've never been in before.'

"There's good evidence in the NHS in the UK that shows that lung cancer nurses actually improve lung cancer outcomes for patients."

She called the lack of access to nurses "negligent".

"It's a human right when you've got an illness such as lung cancer and all of its complexity, you're fighting an uphill battle," she said.

Shock diagnosis after flu symptons

South Australian grandma, Sandy Sampson, 66, said she couldn't imagine not having a dedicated person to contact when she was diagnosed with lung cancer.

She thought she had the flu in 2011.

But the diagnosis was far worse.

Luckily, she was given access to Perth's only dedicated lung cancer nurse, as she was living in the city.

She said they were always on the end of the phone to help not only her, but her family, too, especially after medical appointments.

READ MORE: Exclusive: Non-smoker diagnosed with lung cancer at 22 backs hard-hitting anti-stigma campaign

"Knowing someone was there to say 'this is what he means' or 'this is what we want to do'," she said.

"I think if I didn't have that, we all go to a dark place when we're diagnosed, I can understand people maybe even going to an even darker place.

"My feeling as a cancer patient, no matter what kind of cancer you have it should be equal. We all go through the same thing."

Mrs Sampson - who like many patients has never smoked – has had her right lung removed and also has cancer in her liver, but for now, she's doing okay.

Lung charity plea

The Lung Foundation tabled a government petition last month to ask for urgent cash to fund more nurses.

Lung Foundation Australia Chair and leading respiratory physician Professor Christine Jenkins AM said lung cancer has continually missed out on funding given to breast and prostate cancer.

"There's no reason why lung cancer patients shouldn't receive the same care and support," Prof Jenkins said.

"Australia is lagging behind many other nations in the delivery of best-practice clinical care for lung cancer patients.

"Once again, we're left wondering why lung cancer patients are being treated differently."

The Australian Government's health department told 9news.com. it "appreciates the concerns" raised by Lung Foundation Australia over specialist nurses.

"The Government receives requests to support a variety of different cancer nurses," it said. 

"Unfortunately, it is not always possible to meet all of these requests.

"Further investment in this area will be guided by demand, clinical best practice and ensuring such investment integrates with the wider nursing workforce, which is predominantly the domain of the states and territories," it said.

"To help address this issue the Australian Government has committed to the development of a National Nursing Strategy which will provide opportunities to further consider the role of nurses (including cancer nurses), noting the importance of providing patient-centred care within the multi-disciplinary cancer care team."

READ MORE: Exclusive: Mum diagnosed with lung cancer after forgetting how to tell the time backs new 'googling' campaign

Lung cancer facts

Lung cancer kills more Australians than any other cancer, ahead of breast, prostate and ovarian cancers.

In 2016, 8410 Australians died from lung cancer.

One in three women and one in 10 men diagnosed have never smoked, according to the Lung Foundation Australia.

There is a push to introduce a national screening program for lung cancer, just as breast cancer.

Lung cancer received less than a quarter of the funding cash given to breast and colon cancer research between 2011 and 2016, according to Cancer Australia.

As a result, while breast cancer survival rates have soared to 90 per cent, just 15 per cent of lung cancer patients survive more than five years, a figure which hasn't improved for decades.

Unlike many other cancers, there's no national screening program, meaning diagnosis is often made too late.

READ MORE: Breaking News and Live Updates

Early symptoms of lung cancer

A cough which doesn't go away

Shortness of breath

Coughing up blood or phlegm

Weight loss



Contact journalist Sarah Swain: sswain@nine.com.au

Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/national/lung-cancer-australia-early-signs-plea-for-more-dedicated-nurses-lung-foundation-exclusive/8f623303-1438-44ff-a443-4f9e63521003

By 1news.info

Author 1news.info