Mandurah named a 'cancer hotspot' for high incidence and mortality rates

Photo: Shutterstock.
Photo: Shutterstock.

Mandurah has been named a 'cancer hotspot' after statistics revealed the seaside city has the second highest rate of cancer incidence in Western Australia.

Mandurah falls behind Kwinana for the highest number of diagnoses of breast, colorectal, lung and prostate cancers as well as melanomas of the skin.

Further, the Mandurah region has the fourth highest mortality rate for cancer behind the Kimberley and Mid-West regions and Esperance.

Between 2009 and 2013, more than 3300 people in Mandurah were diagnosed with cancer.

Of those, almost 1300 died.

Cancer Council WA cancer smart manager Melissa Treby said while the statistics appeared high, a number of factors needed to be considered.

"The 1294 cancer deaths is an absolute number," Ms Treby said.

"Mandurah has an aging population with a median age of 48 years, compared to 36 years for Western Australia, so this needs to be taken into account.

"Where there are more older people you will get more diseases of the ageing, such as cancer."

Where there are more older people you will get more diseases of the ageing, such as cancer.

Cancer Council WA cancer smart manager Melissa Treby

Ms Treby added that Mandurah also had one of the highest smoking rates in the state.

Almost 11,500 Mandurah residents smoke, or 19.1 per cent of the city's population.

While Mandurah falls just outside the Perth metropolitan area, its smoking rate is much higher than the city average of 14.2 per cent, and 2.5 times higher than the lowest metro smoking rate of 7.6 per cent in Nedlands.

"Tobacco smoking causes 16 types of cancers including lung, oesophageal, mouth and cancers of the pharynx, larynx and nasal cavity," she said.

"We know smoking is the leading cause of cancer death, but a third of all cancers can be prevented by being physically active, maintaining a healthy body weight, being sunsmart, avoiding alcohol, participating in screening and vaccination programs, and knowing your body and visiting your doctor if you notice any changes."

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GenesisCare clinical services director Dr Eugene Leong has been consulting as a radiation oncologist in Mandurah for the last four years.

He conducts clinics for cancer patients and is responsible for prescribing radiotherapy to treat a range of different types of cancer.

Dr Leong agreed there were a number of significant risk factors that could be attributed to the high incidences of cancer in Mandurah, including increasing age, smoking, alcohol consumption and environmental exposures.

"Mandurah has an aging population due to potentially many retirees residing in the area," he said.

"Sun exposure is particularly important in Australia and especially in the Mandurah area with the outdoors lifestyle of residents.

"Increased detection of cancers also increases incidence statistics. There are many screen programs for breast, uterine, cervix and bowel cancers and many older man are requesting Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test checks from their GPs, which may lead to a diagnosis of prostate cancer."

Sun exposure is particularly important in Australia and especially in the Mandurah area with the outdoors lifestyle of residents.

GenesisCare clinical services director Dr Eugene Leong

Dr Leong said the most common patients he treated in the Peel region had breast cancer or prostate cancer.

"These are the two most common cancers in female and males respectively," he said.

"The majority of these patients are over 60 years of age and most are detected at an early and still curable stage.

"This is mainly because most women undertake the national screening program for breast cancer and many older men are requesting PSA blood tests from their GPs."

Dr Leong, who now works out of Mandurah's new cancer centre in Greenfields, said the need for treatment closer to home had been overdue.

"The demand for the new cancer centre in Mandurah was high," he said.

"Prior to GenesisCare Mandurah opening, I was directing patients to have radiotherapy in Bunbury or Perth as there were no radiotherapy treatment machines in Mandurah.

"Cancer patients can now have their radiotherapy closer to home without having to travel long distances because having radiotherapy five days a week for up to eight weeks and having to travel is burdensome."

As well as providing access to radiotherapy, the new cancer centre will also start offering chemotherapy within the coming months, increasing the number of chemotherapy treatment chairs in Mandurah by 50 per cent.