LUNG and upper gastrointestinal cancers are the leading cancer killers of people living in the Grampians region. Bowel cancer and prostate cancer death rates are also high, the latest Cancer in Victoria Statistics and Trends report shows.
More than one in five people who died with cancer in the Grampians had respiratory cancer, tallying 105 lives. Upper gastrointestinal cancer - which includes oesophageal, stomach, pancreatic and liver cancer - resulted in 18.25 per cent (96 lives) of the region's cancer deaths in 2017.
Bowel (14.06 per cent) and prostate (11.52 per cent) had the next highest tolls. Female breast cancer accounted for 7.62 per cent of deaths but has the third highest incidence rate behind prostate and bowel cancers in the Grampians.
Prostate cancer, bowel cancer, female breast cancer and melanomas are the four most common cancers in the Grampians, making up almost 47 per cent of cancer cases.
Cancer Council Victoria chief executive officer Todd Harper said the report showed survival rates were improving were there was uptake in screening programs, like sun protection and tobacco use, and earlier detection.
Annual cancer incidence rates are expected to increase 43 per cent in the next 15 years, largely due to an ageing and growing population.
But Mr Harper said for many less common cancers, survival remained low. He called for greater investment in prevention and research to improve survival in such cancers.
More children are dying from brain cancer than leukaemia now, despite leukaemia diagnoses being double that of brain cancer in Victoria. Of those who are diagnosed with malignant brain tumours, 26 per cent of people survive five years or more. The disease causes twice as many cancer deaths in Victorian children aged under-15 and young people aged under 30 compared to other cancers but survival rates have remained fairly stagnant.
Ballarat export Misty Jenkins researches brain cancer at Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne. In particular, Dr Jenkins has been investigating how killer cells in the immune system could be modified for a new treatment to childhood brain cancer, an area traditionally lacking in funding.
"Brain cancer is traditionally a very challenging disease to study, which is why there have been no new treatments in decades," Dr Jenkins has told The Courier.
Meanwhile, an ambitious play to make the world's longest line of coins to boost cancer support programs in Ballarat is on hold. A Little Change, A Big Difference is rescheduling an official count with Guinness World Records to early next year in a bid to raise more coins for the attempt.
Their bid is for 90-kilometres' coins to wind about Llanberris Athletics Track. In 50-cent coins, this would equate to about $2 million. The campaign's online tally is at $55,000.
All money raised goes to wellness programs in Ballarat Regional Integrated Cancer Centre to help all cancer patients in the region.
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