Cancer Connections

Beating Cancer in the Highlands ... This column is brought to you regularly by the Southern Highlands Cancer Leadership Committee and is first published in the Lifestyle section of the Southern Highland News. It is designed to inform everybody of matters relating to cancer in our local community and the wider society. We aim to focus on local news, forthcoming events, services and other cancer issues.

Cancer Connections - January 2018

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Cancer Council campaign
The campaign agenda for 2018 has now been decided by over 1000 advocacy volunteers for Cancer Council NSW. The CanAct volunteers have chosen five major issues to focus on during this year and leading up to the State election next year. They will be campaigning to :

   • support people with lymphoedema

   • protect the community from tobacco

   • improve access to medical cannabis

   • protect our kids from junk food marketing

   • employ more Aboriginal workers in cancer services.

In the past, campaigns by CanAct members have achieved much to reduce cancer rates and improve outcomes for patients, most recently seen with the success in gaining additional funding for palliative care in the 2017 Budget. More will be heard about these issues when action gets underway in the coming months.

Sunday @ Centennial

This catchy title is to promote the forthcoming Can Assist Luncheon to be held at Centennial Vineyards restaurant on Sunday, February 11th. With welcome drinks at noon followed by the 3 course lunch commencing at 1pm, entertainment by Johnny Spitz, and Dr Riton Das as the guest speaker, the afternoon promises to be another great fundraiser for our local cancer charity. Tickets can be purchased by contacting Aurelia on 0474647506 or by email to The event is being held in conjunction with a raffle offering fabulous prizes. All profits go to Can Assist Southern Highlands. Full details are given on the Latest News & Events column on this website.

New Research into Bowel Cancer
Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer in Australia, with approximately 17,000 new cases diagnosed last year. Women have a 1 in 15 chance of getting bowel cancer in their lifetime, while men have a 1 in 10 chance. The survival rate has only slightly increased to 67% in the last decade. That’s why it is essential that research is directed into the prevention and treatment of bowel cancer.

Cancer Council NSW committed funding of $360,000 in 2016 to the Valerie Enid Legge Project Grant led by Professor Xu Dong Zhang at the University of Newcastle. Prof Zhang has made an important discovery : that a certain protein is linked to the development of advanced bowel cancer. His team has found that blocking this protein has the potential to slow down the growth of the cancer cells. This finding represents a big step towards creating personalised bowel cancer therapies that are effective in treating the disease at the molecular level.

Mount Kosciuszko Challeng 2018
Rare Cancers Australia will again be holding their exciting climb from Thredbo to the summit. This year's event (the 6th) will take place on Saturday, March 17. Last year's climb raised over $140,000 to help patients with rare or less common cancers. Full details are on the RCA website at

Coming Events
• Can Assist fundraiser lunch “Sunday @ Centennial”, February 11th. See item above.
• Can Assist meets on the 2nd Tuesday of each month. Next meeting will be at BDCU, Bowral, 10am Feb 13
• Southern Highlands Cancer Centre Support Group will not meet in January. Next meeting 10am, Tues. Feb 27, RSVP Katie
• Breast Cancer Support Group, Mittagong RSL, 10am-12 noon, Wed. Feb 28
* Mount Kosciuszko Challenge for Rare Cancers Australia, Sat. March 17
• “The March Charge” is on in 2018. See Cancer Council NSW website for details.

Grahame Hackett (Chair, Southern Highlands Cancer Leadership Committee)
0407 234 780 or


Cancer Connections - December 2017

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Donation from Oxley College students
A substantial donation of around $800 has been made by students from Oxley College to the high-profile local charity Can Assist. The funds will go towards their special account “Can Assist Families” which is solely dedicated to channelling support to those families where a member - whether a parent or a child - is affected by cancer. Students and their parents contributed generously again this year as they did previously in 2016. Can Assist’s financial help for families has a particular focus where a parent is a cancer patient unable to work yet still supporting young children. So we can say “Well done” to all those involved at Oxley : students, parents and staff.

Prostate cancer research results
Researchers at Cancer Council NSW have shed light on factors that contribute to a risk of prostate cancer which is one of the most common cancers in Australian men. One in five males can develop the disease before the age of 85. The study carried out during 2016-17 identified those factors that appear to double the risk, such as : having a father with a history of prostate cancer; a previous diagnosis of prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland) or benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlargement of the prostate); and the number of sexual partners in a lifetime. Being overweight or obese was also associated with increased risk but to a lesser extent. No association was found between prostate cancer and certain suspected risk factors such as circumcision, vasectomy, vertex balding, erectile function, acne, asthma or diabetes.

Men’s Health month
Another successful round of four sessions was held throughout November with local medical practitioners giving up their time to inform us about their special fields. Put together again by Tom Carroll, Peter van Dort, and the team from WHAM, these evening forums have been very well presented and extremely educational for men and for women too. Many thanks to all concerned : presenters and organisers.

Cancer Services Directory 2018
Current indications are that next year’s issue of our annual Directory will be published a little later, probably in May.

Season’s wishes
At this time of the year, as we prepare to celebrate all our blessings with family and friends, it is well to remember that there are those in our community who are less favoured. Fortunately there are so many in the Southern Highlands district who continually help to earn our reputation for generosity to others, whether by giving financially or by making the time to volunteer. To all those of generous heart, our committee sends a genuine “Thank You” and sincere good wishes for the coming season.

Coming Events
• Southern Highlands Cancer Support Group will not meet in December or January.
• Can Assist will not meet in January.
• Can Assist fundraiser “Sunday @Centennial”, February 11th. See full details in the News & Events section of this website.
• Next Can Assist meeting will be at BDCU, Bowral, 10am February 13th.
• Next meeting of the Southern Highlands Cancer Support Group, 10am, Tues. Feb. 27.

Grahame Hackett (Chair, Southern Highlands Cancer Leadership Committee)
0407 234 780 or


Cancer Connections - November 2017

Saturday, November 18, 2017

“Murder can help patients”
A capacity audience at New Empire Cinemas on Nov. 9th watched the new movie version of "Murder on the Orient Express", directed by Kenneth Branagh. The event was a most successful fundraiser for the Southern Highlands branch of Can Assist and all attending were treated to a quality adaptation of the familiar classic. This version was helped greatly by a fantastic cast of murderers. (Among so many fine performances, I was particularly impressed by Michelle Pfeiffer’s and would not be surprised if she gets an Academy nomination for best supporting actress). The venture received marvellous support from the Cinema’s owners, from Films in the Southern Highlands (FISH), along with the generous donors of prizes and of course all those folk who attended. Secretary Terry Hughes has announced that over $6,000 was raised on the night. WOW ! This great result would not have been possible without the smooth organisation by Aurelia Grigore-Reid and her army of volunteers from Can Assist who do so much for cancer patients in our district.

Portacatheter insertion issue

Readers of this column would know that our committee has been pushing for a local solution to the problem of public patients having to travel all the way to Concord Hospital for the insertion of a portacatheter. At the recent Annual Public Meeting of the South Western Sydney Local Health District, I took up the matter with the LHD Chief Executive, Amanda Larkin. After expressing her surprise and disappointment that cancer patients were having to make that out-of-area journey, the CE promptly undertook to further investigate this matter. The full facts have now been conveyed to Ms Larkin, along with the details on what progress we have currently made in pressing the issue.  

I shall report on whether an acceptable solution is arrived at.

Killing liver cancer cells
Cancer Council Research reports : Australia has witnessed a significant rise in liver cancer rates in recent years, and this trend is expected to continue over the next few decades. Sadly, the chance of a person with liver cancer surviving for 5 years or more is just 16%, and this is largely because the cancer is able to resist current therapies. Professor Christopher Liddle from the University of Sydney has found that there is a group of cells in liver tumours called cancer stem cells. These cells initiate cancer growth and contribute to the spread of the tumour. Current therapies are not able to target these cells, explaining why liver cancers are so unresponsive to treatment. Christopher and his team have developed two agents that can seek out and bind to the liver cancer stem cells and kill them. The researchers are now testing the effectiveness of these agents in the lab to see just how powerful their anti-cancer capability is. Once the team proves the agents are successful, this will lay the foundation for clinical trials.

Reminders of events :
• The series of Men’s Health seminars proceeds this November, organised by Tom Carroll and WHAM. These information sessions are held at 6pm sharp every Tuesday in St Jude’s Auditorium, Bowral. For the full program, visit the ‘News & Events’ section of this website or call Tom on 0419482208.
• Cancer Council continues its series of webinars. (These are online seminars which you can watch on your computer or mobile device on the night or later at your convenience.) The next topic is “Men’s Psycho-social needs : What support do men need after cancer ?” on Nov. 30. Visit the Cancer Council website for full details.

Coming Events
• Men’s Health Forum continues this November, every Tuesday; see item above.
• Breast Cancer Support Group, Mittagong RSL, 10am-12 noon, Nov 22.
• Southern Highlands Cancer Support Group, 10am, Tues. Nov. 28 RSVP Katie
• Can Assist Meeting at BDCU, Bowral, 10am December 12

Grahame Hackett (Chair, Southern Highlands Cancer Leadership Committee)
0407 234 780 or


Cancer Connections - September 2016

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Smoking rates in NSW are changing
Data from NSW Health shows that the younger generations are driving a dramatic drop in smoking rates while rusted-on older smokers are finding it harder to quit or have given up. Across the board, smoking rates have dropped another two percentage points from 15.6% to 13.5%. The population survey, which interviews roughly 13,000 people across the state every year, found that smoking rates have declined by 10% since 2003. But among 45-54 year-olds, smoking rates jumped more than two per cent. They hardly budged among people aged 65 and over, and rose slightly among those aged 75 and over. Anita Dessaix, Manager of Cancer Prevention at Cancer Institute NSW, commented that the message, particularly for older people, is not to despair but to keep trying. There is hope and support for them to quit smoking.

Please note : For lots of tips on where to turn for Quit Smoking support, take a look at our webpage under the Prevention tab above, or just click here

Parliamentary support
We were joined at the Daffodil Day stall in Springetts Arcade this August by Jai Rowell, MP for Wollondilly. Besides adding his backing for this annual fundraiser, Jai also signed the Cancer Council pledge “I care for palliative care”, as part of the current campaign. Following this, we discussed the issue of haematology services for local patients without private health cover and found that the local member undertook to take up the matter with senior Health personnel. Such political support is significant to our drive for better patient outcomes on both of those issues.

“Push for Palliative” Petition
Last week, Thursday September 15, saw further discussion in the NSW Parliament on the petition for more palliative care. Margaret Mogg, a member of our committee, and Virginia Adlide, local “Push for Palliative” Ambassador, were among the supporters from regional NSW supplementing those from Sydney. Over 80 people packed the public gallery to hear the third debate on the petition which has been signed by over 83,000 citizens. This requests staff increases in palliative care medical specialists, specialist nurses and Aboriginal health workers and was presented by the Minister for Health, Jillian Skinner, who described the current enhancement to palliative care services. Other speakers supporting the petition were Adam Crouch (Lib.) MP for Terrigal, Jenny Aitchson (Lab.) MP for Maitland, Trish Doyle (Lab.) MP for the Blue Mountains and David Harris (Lab.) MP for Wyong. Hearing the passion of the speakers we can only hope that the momentum for the campaign will continue and a positive outcome will be achieved.

And in case you missed it :
There were a number of fine speeches made by new members of Federal Parliament this month. These included first speeches by Linda Burney (MP for Barton), Senator Malarndirri McCarthy (NT), and the one by Julian Leeser (MP for Berowra) recounting the sad story of his father’s suicide.

Coming Events

• Southern Highlands Spring Auto Fair at Berrima Public School, Sunday, Sept. 25, 9am to 2pm. For more information, contact Darren Freer 0439110358 or Phil Walmsley 0438402797 or email: Funds to support the SH Cancer Centre Trust Fund.

• Southern Highlands Cancer Support Group meet at SH Private Hospital, 10.30am, Sept. 27. RSVP Jo or Katie on 4862 9470

• Look Good Feel Better program at SH Private Hospital, Sept. 27. For details and to register, visit their website at or telephone 1800 650 960.

• Breast Cancer Support Group, Mittagong RSL, 10am-12 noon, Sept. 28.
• Can Assist meeting, Thursday, Oct. 13th, 10am at the old Bowral Hospital
• Pink Ribbon Day will be Friday, Oct. 21, supporting women with breast or gynaecological cancer.

• Rare Cancer Australia’s Sick or Treat Charity Ball, Fri. Oct. 28 : visit RCA website at

Grahame Hackett (Chair, SHCLC)
0407 234 780 or


Cancer Connections - July 2016

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Daffodil Day on Friday, August 26
Probably no event is more associated with Cancer Council than Daffodil Day, a great fundraiser for much needed support of cancer patients and their families. We always have a number of outlets in the Highlands, based on the major shopping centres. If you are interested in volunteering for someone you know, you could help out in co-ordinating a site at Mittagong or Moss Vale. Just call Caitlyn Zalewski on 42230232. Last year, Cancer Council invested $14.9 million in cancer research and received over 12,000 calls to its Information and Support Service on 13 11 20.

Haematology services for the Highlands ?
Readers of this column would know that we have had an ongoing need for improved services in this district for haematology patients. It is now time to set out some detail on what the issue is. If you are a self-insured patient, you can have a consultation and receive your treatment by a haematologist at the Southern Highlands Private Hospital. If you are an uninsured patient you can have a consultation at Bowral and District Hospital with a haematologist who comes from Liverpool. But for treatment the uninsured patient must travel to Liverpool every time.

The Southern Highlands Cancer Leadership Committee has long believed that, wherever possible, those patients would be far better off if treated closer to home. This treatment could be achieved by a contract agreement between South Western Sydney Local Health District and Southern Highlands Private Hospital, similar to the currently existing agreement for Medical Oncology. It would avoid the need for most patients to make costly, time-consuming and stressful journeys to Liverpool on a regular basis. For well over a year, we had understood that progress was being made on this arrangement.

Contract negotiations broke down, however, when the Bowral and District Hospital’s priorities were reviewed. Haematology was not rated high enough on their list for the service to be funded and so uninsured patients still have to get to Liverpool, no matter what hardship this causes. Our committee continues to believe that it must be possible for the management of Bowral Hospital to see that better outcomes for those patients can be achieved.

Dry July
Is this your cup of tea ? Dry July is a fundraiser that challenges you to go booze-free for a month to support adults living with cancer.
This year, funds raised through Dry July can go towards a range of support projects. It’s your choice. To sign up, visit the Dry July website.

Coming Events
• Dry July to benefit cancer patients and their families.
• Southern Highlands Cancer Support Group meet at private hospital, 10am, July 26. RSVP Jo or Katie on 4862 9470
• Breast Cancer Support Group, Mittagong RSL, 10am-12 noon, July 27

• Can Assist Annual Branch meeting, Thursday, August 11th, 10.30 am at the old Bowral Hospital

• Daffodil Day is Friday, August 26.

Grahame Hackett (Chair, SHCLC)
0407 234 780 or


Cancer Connections - April 2015

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The removal of chemo co-payments

An end is now in sight for the practice of some public hospitals charging cancer patients a co-payment for their chemotherapy. At other public hospitals, these drugs were provided at no charge, creating a bit of a lottery depending on where you happened to be treated. The recent NSW election has brought about the change. After the ALP promised to abolish the co-payment, the Baird Government made the same commitment and then went on to include charges for the drugs for treatment of HIV, hepatitis, cystic fibrosis and organ transplants as well. We now await an announcement of when these fees will no longer be charged.

Cancer Services Directory 2015 now available

With the publication of this year’s Southern Highlands Cancer Services Directory inside the Southern Highland News last month, we have been getting feedback and reactions to the new format. This has been the first time in our 7 years of issuing the Directory that it has been combined with the Southern Highlands Health Guide in one booklet. The responses so far have been most positive about the change to a two-cover “flip” booklet and its A5 format also remains popular. Missed your copy ? Some spare copies are available from the Cancer Centre within the private hospital. As well as that, the whole Directory can now be viewed online from this website simply by clicking on the Directory tab above.

BowelCare Program

I have received word that the well known bowel screening program run by BowelCare Australia will be using a new test kit this year. The kits, which are distributed to pharmacies throughout our district by Rotary, will use the updated technology of a Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) to screen for occult blood. Participating pharmacies in the Southern Highlands should have the new kits available from May 2nd (if not earlier) through to June 27th. The $15 cost for each kit covers pathology testing and notification of results to both you and your nominated doctor.

Bowel cancer refers to a cancer in any part of the large bowel (the colon or the rectum). It is sometimes also known as colorectal cancer. Bowel cancer grows from the inner lining of the bowel and may develop from growths on the bowel wall called polyps. Polyps are usually benign (or harmless), but they may become malignant (cancerous) over time. Information from Cancer Council NSW indicates that bowel cancer is the second most common cancer affecting people in Australia with nearly 17,000 diagnosed with the disease in one year. About one in 17 men and one in 25 women will develop bowel cancer before the age of 75. So, why not “get checked” ?

Cancer Research News

Did you know that Cancer Council NSW spent $14.2 million in the 2013/14 financial year on research into various aspects of cancer ? The total amount invested in their world-class research over the last 10 years has been more than $130m. That’s made possible by the combined efforts of communities like our own across NSW, raising funds to go towards cancer research, prevention, information and support services. What is important here is that this is the only organisation putting funds towards the support of all cancers. Research also helps to prioritise the areas where we can have the greatest impact, so this enhances the outcomes for current and future cancer patients.

Coming Events

• “Field of Women”, Melbourne, May 9
• Mothers Day Classic at Bong Bong Racecourse, 3km walk & 5km run, May 10
• National Volunteer Week, May 11-17
• Can Assist meeting, Thurs. May 14, 10am at the old Bowral Hospital
• Biggest Morning Tea, Thurs. May 28 or on nearby dates. The local Cancer Centre will be holding their Biggest Morning Tea on Monday 25th

Grahame Hackett (Chair, SHCLC)
0407 234 780 or


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