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Lifeline opens in Hobart for some, but not all, cancer patients

Media Release
Christine Milne 17 Nov 2008

Tasmania's first PET scanner, a vital diagnostic tool that can dramatically improve treatment for cancer patients, begins operation today, but still only some cancer patients will be able to access it.

Australian Greens Deputy Leader, Senator Christine Milne, has been fighting for this critical medical service for Tasmania since taking her Senate seat. She will continue to fight for all cancer sufferers to be able to access PET scans in Hobart.

"I really welcome the fact that some Tasmanian cancer sufferers now have the opportunity to have these vital scans done at home, instead of having to travel to the mainland," Senator Milne said.

"However, the Medicare rebate will not apply to all forms of cancer, meaning many sick Tasmanians will still need to travel to the mainland.

"Tasmania would have had a PET scanner much sooner if the clear evidence presented to government not been tampered with back in 2000. The Medical Services Advisory Council (MSAC) report in 2000 should, according to experts, have said that PET scans were safe, clinically effective and potentially cost effective. But the report was tampered with.

"The tampering with that report has meant that, for several types of cancer, PET scans are not regarded as routine, clinically effective treatment. Patients with these cancers must be sent to only a small number of research hospitals in order to qualify for the Medicare rebate.

"This has meant that it has not been cost effective for Tasmania to have PET scanners until now.

"But, because the report was tampered with, there are cancer patients in Tasmania who will still have to go to the Peter MacCallum clinic in Melbourne, even though the machine is now available in Tasmania.

"It is critical that MSAC is funded to accelerate the assessment of all types of cancer for which PET scans are clinically effective so that they can be rolled out as quickly as possible right across rural and regional Australia, and improve the treatment of cancer patients everywhere."

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