BRAIN CANCER ACTION WEEK

I bring to the attention of the House that this week is Brain Cancer Action Week, which aims to increase awareness and raise funds for brain cancer research. Brain cancer is the least understood cancer in Australia, despite it being one of the most lethal. Every year around 1,600 people in Australia are diagnosed, which is roughly one person diagnosed every five hours. Annually 1,200 lives are taken, which means one person is lost to this horrible disease every seven hours. Brain cancer kills more people under 40 than does any other cancer and it kills more children in this country than does any other disease.

Despite significant increases in survival for Australians diagnosed with other types of cancer, there has been no significant improvement in brain cancer survival rates in almost three decades. Brain cancer also carries the highest individual financial burden of all cancers, with an average cost that is more than five times higher than the cost of breast cancer or prostate cancer. Brain cancer costs more per patient than any other cancer. Brain cancer also has a highly debilitating nature that affects people in their prime and often means family members cannot work if they have to care for their loved one.    

Despite these awful statistics, brain cancer remains one of the most understudied cancers and receives little research funding. That is why it has been great to see many prominent people drawing attention and raising awareness recently to this deadly disease.     

Last year Carrie Bickmore drew attention to the disease by dedicating her Gold Logie to her late husband, Greg Lange, who passed away from brain cancer in 2010. Carrie's Beanies 4 Brain Cancer campaign has raised almost half a million dollars and is assisting a research project at the Royal Melbourne Hospital Neuroscience Foundation.    

Closer to home, my constituent Paul Harragon participated in the reality TV show I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! to raise awareness and money for the Mark Hughes Foundation. This foundation was established after Mark Hughes was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2013 and it promotes research and awareness and gives support to brain cancer patients and their families. Mark was young, fit and he felt fine. Mark's symptoms started with a couple of days of an intense headache accompanied by blurred vision. He went and saw a general practitioner, who sent him for a precautionary CT scan. A follow-up scan confirmed a tumour. Mark underwent brain surgery at John Hunter Hospital, which successfully removed a posterior cerebral tumour the size of an avocado.    

Mark's recovery from surgery was unfortunately accompanied by double vision and hallucinations. His pathology results were not good and Mark had to fight for his life. He began six weeks of radiation therapy, six months of chemotherapy, 33 radiation sessions, six months of oral chemotherapy, and he continues to have regular scans. Luckily, Mark's tumour has responded well to the chemotherapy and radiation treatments and a recent scan has shown no sign of a tumour recurring. Mark is now preparing to join his fellow former Knights players Paul Harragon and Billy Peden to tackle the Kokoda track in the Coast to Coast Challenge in June this year and to raise $50,000 for the Mark Hughes Foundation. I commend Paul, Mark and Billy for their efforts to raise funds for this worthy foundation and I hope it can help in finding a cure for this deadly disease.    

The Hunter Central Coast region office of the Cancer Council, based in my electorate of Charlestown, should be acknowledged for the amazing work it does to educate the general community as well as supporting cancer patients and their families, including those battling and recovering from brain cancer. I particularly recognise the work of the many volunteers who educate, support and raise money to assist cancer sufferers and their families. Some of the ways they do this is through fundraising events, such as Loop the Lake, Dance for Cancer and Relay for Life. They are just a few of the fundraising events that are very well patronised in the Hunter.    

I note that next Wednesday the Speaker is hosting a Biggest Morning Tea event in the Speaker's garden to also raise money for the Cancer Council. I trust that members will spend some time this week thinking about how we in this place can help to improve research into brain cancer and so reduce its incidence and improve the lives of brain cancer sufferers.