Cancer affects most of us at some point in our lives. We may be diagnosed with cancer ourselves or have family members, friends or neighbours with the disease. Cancer conjures up fears and anxieties, more so than many other diseases. Many are unaware of the recent advances in both reducing the risk of developing cancer and in treating and caring for those who have developed the disease. At present, we have the knowledge to prevent at least one-third of cancers. Depending on the availability of resources, it is also possible to detect at an early stage, and effectively treat, a further third of cancers. When cancer cannot be cured or held in remission, advances in the prevention and relief of suffering can greatly improve the quality of life of people with cancer and their families and whānau.
Cancer is a complex group of diseases. The term covers over a hundred diseases with different causes and requiring different treatment methods. Its prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment and care involve a wide range of organisations and health professionals, both government and non-government.
As in many other countries, the number of people who develop cancer in New Zealand is increasing. Much of this increase is due to a growth in the population as well as the ageing of the population. Currently, about 16,000 New Zealanders develop cancer each year, while about 7,500 die as a result of cancer. Recent forecasting suggests that the number diagnosed will increase to 22,000 per year by 2011, placing increasing pressure on our health system.
The New Zealand Health Strategy (Minister of Health 2000) includes among its short- to medium-term population health objectives a reduction in the incidence and impact of cancer. In response, the Ministry of Health and the New Zealand Cancer Control Trust – representing the non-government sector – jointly produced the New Zealand Cancer Control Strategy (Minister of Health 2003). Launched in August 2003, the Strategy was the first step in the development and implementation of a comprehensive cancer control programme for New Zealand. The purposes, principles and goals of the Strategy are enduring; the objectives (and associated areas for action) are priorities in the short to medium term.
This Action Plan was developed by the Cancer Control Taskforce (see Appendix 1) supported by a Secretariat (see Appendix 2). The Plan outlines actions necessary for achieving the goals and objectives set out in the Cancer Control Strategy. As the Strategy provides the rationale for recommended action, it should be considered alongside the Action Plan.
Purpose of Action Plan
The New Zealand Cancer Control Strategy provides a high-level framework for reducing the incidence and impact of cancer in New Zealand and reducing inequalities with respect to cancer. This Action Plan outlines in detail how the Strategy’s objectives can be achieved. There are synergies between aspects of this Action Plan and some other government health strategies and guidelines (see Appendix 3).
The actions identified in the Action Plan extend across the cancer control continuum, which includes primary prevention, screening, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, rehabilitation and support, and palliative care. They also include workforce development, research, data collection and analysis.
The Action Plan will have particular relevance to government and non-government agencies whose work impacts on the delivery of services and activities across the continuum of cancer control, individuals involved in the management and delivery of services, and those with cancer, their family and whänau.
A wide range of organisations and individuals are already involved in the control of cancer in New Zealand. The New Zealand Cancer Control Strategy (Minister of Health 2003) and its Action Plan together provide an integrated approach to the planning, development and delivery of existing and new cancer control activities and services. The Action Plan incorporates and builds upon existing activities which contribute to cancer control. In many cases the recommended actions are designed to:
- close existing gaps in services, or reduce duplication
- ensure greater co-ordination of services being developed
- ensure that scarce and finite resources are used efficiently and effectively.