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Today Tonight – Lung Cancer
Dr Fraser Brims:
One of the biggest advances in the fight against lung cancer in decades.
Roy Wallace:
If it hadn’t of been picked up with the CT scan, I probably wouldn’t be
talking to you now.
Reporter:
Back in the 60s Roy Wallace worked in Wittenoom asbestos mill
Roy Wallace:
The actual asbestos was being treated at the time and um bagged sort of
thing and couldn’t be helped that there was asbestos dust in the air all the
time.
Historical Reporter:
Each year 6000 tonnes of refined fibre leave Australia’s only blue asbestos
field but the immensity of the known deposits assures a long and
prosperous future.
Reporter:
Of course the reality is opposite.
Roy Wallace:
When you look back it was and you know what you know now you would
not have gone near the place.
Reporter:
Like thousands of other West Aussies who have been exposed Roy gets a
yearly check-up through Charlie Gardiners asbestos review program.
Roy Wallace:
I think I can recall the words from um the Dr was do you want the good
news first or the bad news.
Reporter:
The bad news Roy had lung cancer the good news.
Roy Wallace:
He said if you have to have lung cancer he said it’s the time to get it so we
can do something about it, it’s been caught early.
Dr Fraser Brims:
Last year more than 11 000 Australians have been diagnosed with lung
cancer.
Reporter:
It’s the world’s leading cause of cancer death and certain groups are more at
risk. People exposed to asbestos are twice as likely to get lung cancer,
smokers ten times as likely. Smokers exposed to asbestos up to 20 times.
Head of the Asbestos Review program Dr Fraser Brims says traditional ways
of picking up lung cancer needs improving
Dr Fraser Brims:
The problem with lung cancer and many other western countries is that
about 8 out of 10 present at a time when the cancer is too advanced and too
late to offer curative treatment
Reporter:
But in an Australian first the program has started using old technology in a
new way and for people like Roy it’s literally life saving
Dr Fraser Brims:
We can offer low dose CT scans which is the same radiation dose as a plain
old fashioned chest x-ray and yet they offer an almost infinite amount of
information.
Reporter:
So Fraser what are we looking at here?
Dr Fraser Brims:
So we have two CT scans here. This is a scan a chest CT scan and this
irregular area, this sort of whitish area is in fact quite a large lung cancer but
this I am afraid is at a stage where we can offer some treatment but not
anything curative. By contrast this is a scan by one of the ladies within our
asbestos review program and this tiny area here, which is only about 9 or 10
mm is in fact a very early lung cancer.
Reporter:
Usually 8 out of 10 lung cancer patients diagnosed too late to cure. It is
hoped this technology can flip that statistic on its head.
Dr Fraser Brims:
Really exciting news is we have picked up 10 lung cancers in our group of
people none of whom had any symptoms or signs that they had this.
Reporter:
All ten have had surgery and so far it is 10 out of 10.
Dr Fraser Brims:
We can now potentially significantly change someone’s life umm at a time
they did not know they had a potentially lethal illness.
Reporter:
Have they changed your life?
Roy Wallace:
Yes! Definitely, definitely.