The scourge of lung cancer in Western NSW is being tackled by “amazing local clinicians” willing to have their work reviewed by Australian and international experts in the field.
The “peer reviewers” questioned members of a multidisciplinary team of doctors in the boardroom of Dubbo Hospital on Friday with a view to recommending how they could better deliver services.
It was the first time that a peer review into lung cancer was held in the Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD) .
Lung cancer is not the most common cancer in the WNSWLHD but it has the highest mortality rate, with only 12 to 14 per cent of patients living five years after diagnosis.
Dubbo Hospital senior respiratory physician and chairwoman of the Western NSW Lung Cancer Working Group, Dr Sugamya Mallawathantri, said the first peer review would not be the last.
“Historically, a peer review into lung cancer has not taken place in NSW or possibly Australia,” she said.
“WNSWLHD is proud to be the first site to set an example in introducing a formal review of lung cancer services and we plan to continue to hold a peer review annually from now onwards.”
Formed two years ago, the working group initiated the peer review in a region that Dr Mallawathantri reports “didn’t even have a respiratory physician” five years ago.
“There are lots of areas where we can perform better,” she said.
“We don’t have a lung cancer nurse specialist. We don’t have a specialist palliative care consultant.
“The pathways can be fine-tuned and we can gather data in real time and do more audits.”
Dr Mallawathantri said more people were dying from lung cancer in the WNSWLHD than in “metropolitan” health districts and the five-year survival rates of more common cancers in the region, such as prostate cancer, were much higher than for lung cancer.
“That’s why we need to make sure these patients are caught early,” she said.
WNSWLHD chief executive Scott McLachlan turned out to the peer review where he was effusive about its impact.
“I think this is an incredibly exciting day for health in this region but also rural health across the world,” Mr McLachlan said.
“To have some amazing local clinicians step up to the plate and be open to people from all around the world for advice means we can deliver fantastic services for our community across the whole of this region.”
On Saturday, the WNSWLHD will host a lung cancer symposium featuring “world-renowned speakers” at Dubbo Regional Theatre and Convention Centre.
Doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, patients and advocates will attend.