Pilbara cancer patients and their families can now access a plethora of local support services with the launch of a new two-year, $500,000 program developed by Solaris Cancer Care and the Hedland Well Women’s Centre.
The Pilbara Cancer Support program was initiated by Western Australia’s premier cancer support provider, Solaris Cancer Care. The program will cater for men, women and children, will provide Pilbara cancer patients access to a cancer support nurse, specialist cancer counsellor, and other support services free of charge.
Made possible by a generous donation from the Rinehart Medical Foundation established by Mrs Gina Rinehart, Port Hedland is the sixth Western Australian location for Solaris Cancer Care, including three metropolitan support centres and two in the South West.
Solaris founder Professor David Joske said the service’s aim was to ensure cancer patients state-wide could be supported, either face-to-face or through outreach programs, to bridge the gap between metropolitan and regional cancer services.
“When I founded Solaris, it was with the vision to offer more support and give patients a richer appreciation of life, and I am truly humbled by the level of support we have been given to now extend this reach to the people that need it who can’t make the trip from Port Hedland to benefit from our services in Perth.”
Hedland Well Women’s Centre Chief Executive Rebekah Worthington said all staff would receive upskilling and specialist cancer care training through Solaris, making the outreach program an invaluable extension of the centre’s services.
“It will mean that all cancer patients in the Pilbara, regardless of gender or age, will have access to some of the services that, until now, have only been available in metropolitan Perth,” Ms Worthington said.
“In addition, it means we can build on the work we have been doing for the past 29 years to provide a holistic approach to women’s issues focusing on physical, emotional, social and mental health.
“The specialised cancer training will build local capacity and help identify mental health indicators, grief, and loss to help the emotional wellbeing of cancer patients and their families.”
Professor Joske said it was vital that cancer patients in the regions had access to the services provided by Solaris that would otherwise need to be provided by the public health sector, including bringing together the best in modern medicine with evidence-based support services, and being the only service provider to respond to all adult cancers and all stages of the cancer journey.
“Like many regions, the Pilbara is disadvantaged by reduced health service with regional patients suffering poorer health outcomes,” he said. “Our services have been shown to deliver a 14 per cent reduction in side effects such as pain, fatigue, and nausea, and an eight per cent improvement in psychological scores by reducing stress, anxiety, and depression, resulting in increased empowerment.”
With over 12,000 people diagnosed with cancer in WA each year and three out of 10 deaths directly caused by cancer, Solaris Cancer Care provides the support to cope with the emotional and physical effects of cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.
Solaris supports more than 25,000 cancer patients, carers and families in WA each year and provides more than 700 treatments a month across the five metropolitan and regional centres.
Photo: For Trish Littlewood, treatment and scans meant air travel to Perth every three weeks. (ABC Pilbara: Karen Michelmore)