Cancer Control Agency

The Cancer Control Agency is a departmental agency hosted by the Ministry of Health, that will provide strong national leadership for, and oversight of, cancer control in New Zealand.

Cancer and COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)

Diana Sarfati, CE Cancer Control Agency, shares a message for those living with cancer during COVID-19.

Text: A message for those living with cancer during COVID-19 - Cancer Control Agency New Zealand

Diana Sarfati - CE Cancer Control Agency: Kia ora, katou. Being diagnosed with cancer is stressful, and even more so during the COVID pandemic. I wanted to let you know how hard everyone is working to make sure that you and your whānau have the care and support that you need during this difficult time.

Richard Doocey - Haematologist in Auckland: Just wanted to check in and reassure you that all the cancer units and their fabulous staff across New Zealand are working really closely together at this time. We're all trying to make sure you get that excellent cancer treatment that you all deserve.

Shelley Campbell - CE Waikato Bay of Plenty Cancer Society: Waikato Cancer Society Lions Lodge is now operating 24/7. At the moment, our nurses are working hard to support whānau and the community as well.

Claire Hardie- Radiation Oncologist in Palmerston North: Radiation oncology departments around the country are still working so you can receive radiation treatment when you need it. 

Alex - Social Worker / Counsellor Cancer in Whangarei: We're still providing support with social work issues, accommodation, travel, things like that, and we're all in this together.

Chris Hemmings - Pathologist in Christchurch: We've extended our operating hours and divided our labs into two teams, so although it's not quite business as usual, we are still coming to work every day and beavering away in the lab behind the scenes to do our bit to support cancer patients.

Diana Sarfati: There are some really simple things you can do if you or a member of your whānau are being treated for cancer. 

Myra Ruka - Haematologoist in Waikato: Continue to take all of your medications. Your cancer key team will contact you and let you know if there's been any changes to your treatment plan. 

Gerardine Clifford-Lidstone - Director Pacific Health in Wellington: If you are unwell, phone your GP or cancer clinic. They will talk to you about what to do next. If you're sick, the hospital is still the safest place to be.

Myra Ruka: If you're a cancer patient, or if you're vulnerable or at high risk of getting the coronavirus, your whare is your safety bubble, so as much as possible, please stay in the whare.

Chris Jackson - Medical Oncologist in Dunedin: Whatever the alert level, you can travel for your treatment, because cancer treatment is essential. Occasionally, the way we deliver treatment may change to keep you or our staff safe.

Diana Sarfati: Cancer care professionals all around New Zealand have risen to the challenge of COVID-19. To those living with cancer at this time, we are constantly humbled by your strength and your resilience. You're at the front of our minds. He waka eke noa - we're all in this together.

We know that many people living with cancer and their whānau are worried about what might happen with their cancer treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those in active cancer treatment will continue to receive treatment, though there may be changes to appointments and treatment plans.

You can travel to receive your cancer treatment. You can relocate to receive your cancer treatment. Cancer treatment is an essential service. It is a good idea to carry a doctor's letter (or any other documentation of your treatment) with you as you travel. If you use DHB National Travel Assistance please contact your coordinator to make sure they can support you with necessary transport and accommodation.

For cancer patients who do not have any symptoms of COVID-19:

  • most outpatient appointments will now be virtual consultations (such as a phone conversation), you will be contacted by your cancer clinic with the details
  • your doctor will contact you to discuss your treatment
  • do not stop or make changes to your cancer treatment without talking to your doctor.

For patients who are unwell: 

  • phone your cancer clinic to let them know you are unwell
  • if you are sick hospital is still the safest place to be. PLEASE PHONE FIRST
  • do not stop or make changes to your cancer treatment without talking to your doctor.

We know people and their whānau living with cancer will be worried about COVID-19 and what it might mean for their wellbeing and treatment plans. The best source of accurate and up-to-date information about COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) is available on this website.

People with reduced immunity, including some people living with cancer and those undergoing chemotherapy, are at a higher risk from COVID-19. For information on symptoms, how the virus spreads and simple measures to minimise exposure refer to the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Health Advice page.

The COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) questions and answers page provides the most recent advice for immune-compromised people and their whānau.

We will be working with clinicians, Cancer Centres, DHBs, Regional Cancer Networks and our own staff and advisory groups to work through the issues that COVID-19 is creating for cancer services.

Role and responsibilities

The Agency will drive the implementation of the Cancer Action Plan 2019–2029, which focuses on equity and delivering nationally consistent services for all New Zealanders, no matter who they are or where they live.

Key priorities for the Agency include providing strong accountability, coordination of various agencies involved in cancer, and working to implement the Cancer Action Plan.

The Agency is working closely with people impacted by cancer, including their whānau and healthcare professionals. The Agency is also actively working with Māori and Pacific leaders to ensure that they inform the work of the Agency and how we can best engage with them to meet their needs.

Structure

A Cancer Control Agency Advisory Council has been established to support the leadership and ongoing direction of cancer control in New Zealand.

A Chief Executive, Professor Diana Sarfati, was appointed by the State Services Commissioner on 1 December 2019 and will be responsible for delivering the outcomes identified in the Cancer Action Plan. The Agency will operate independently, and the Chief Executive will be accountable directly to the Minister of Health.

Professor Diana Sarfati (MBChB, MPH, PhD, FNZCPHM) joins us as the interim Chief Executive for Cancer Control. As a public health physician, cancer epidemiologist and health services researcher Diana brings a commitment to improving equity and cancer outcomes through evidence-based, person-centred care and using strong collective expertise.

Diana was appointed as Head of the Department of Public Health in 2014, and is the Director of the Cancer and Chronic Conditions (C3) research group at University of Otago, Wellington. She has led a large body of research relating to ethnic disparities in cancer outcomes, particularly those affecting Indigenous peoples. This work has resulted in the identification of key patient and health system factors that influence cancer survival. It has been used extensively by health policy makers, clinicians and other researchers to develop policies and practices that aim to reduce inequities in cancer outcomes.

Diana is currently a member of the Advisory Committee to International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) Pacific cancer hub, IARC’s international expert group on social inequalities in cancer, the Academic Advisory Committee on the International Cancer Benchmarking Project, and she led a Lancet Oncology series on cancer in small island developing states. Diana is a former member of the National Screening Advisory Group, the National Ethics Advisory Committee, the Bowel Cancer Taskforce and the National Bowel Cancer Screening Advisory Committee.

The Agency is establishing five teams to deliver to the commitment areas defined in the Cancer Action Plan:

  1. Equity
  2. Treatment, Quality & Standardisation
  3. Data, Information & Reporting
  4. Patient-Centred Care
  5. Prioritisation, Innovation & Research.
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