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Support people with cancer in rural and regional NSW

In 2020, Vivienne received a diagnosis of squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue – an uncommon and difficult-to-treat cancer.

A diagnosis of tongue cancer is devastating enough, but for Vivienne, the odds were also stacked against her – purely because of where she lives.

Vivienne's situation is not uncommon. Because of where they live, those like Vivienne face confusing treatment pathways and significant delays, which can have devastating impacts on their chance of survival.

A person’s postcode should not determine whether or not they survive their cancer. But the devastating fact is, Australians living in rural and regional areas have significantly poorer outcomes than those living in cities. This shouldn’t be the case – and together, we can give them the chance for the better outcomes they deserve.

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With your support, we have established a presence in six regions across NSW.

These services work together with the local communities to form stronger ties between local GP's and health specialists and the infrastructure that Chris O'Brien Lifehouse offers.

Your donation today will help us expand our reach and improve outcomes for more patients in these areas.

"Chris O'Brien Lifehouse satellite clinics are servicing small pockets of rural NSW, but without state or federal funding we will not be able to expand or continue our service into the future. Meanwhile, so many patients are still falling through the cracks." 

- Associate Professor Carsten Palme, Director of Head and Neck Surgery at Chris O'Brien Lifehouse

Vivienne and her husband, Rodney, live on a farm in Armidale, a four-hour drive from our specialist head and neck clinic in Port Macquarie. By the time Vivienne reached the Chris O'Brien Lifehouse clinic in Port Macquarie she'd already visited two different doctors and two hospitals, and driven hundreds of kilometres to receive her diagnosis. 

After all this, the financial complexities of leaving the farm and travelling to Sydney were just too much. But the truth was - if she left her cancer untreated, it would surely become terminal.

When the first Chris O'Brien Lifehouse specialty head and neck clinic was set up by Associate Professor Carsten Palme, Director of Head and Neck Surgey at Chris O'Brien Lifehouse, it was with the aim of lessening the unfair disparity in cancer outcomes for people in this area. And the support of donors like you made it possible.

Your kind gift today will help us set up additional clinics in regional NSW so others can access the cancer care they need.

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Even with Vivienne's long travel hours, she is one of the fortunate ones - her cancer was diagnosed and her proximity to the Chris O'Brien Lifehouse Port Macquarie clinic meant we could put her on track for the best treatment option, as soon as possible. 

That's why our regional clinics are so crucial. They move the expertise of Chris O'Brien Lifehouse to the patient, so patients can make the right decisions, get the best quality of care, and have the best chance of survival - no matter where they live.

Vivienne's tongue cancer required surgery and a free-flap reconstruction as part of her treatment. This complex and specialist surgery is standard for the multidisciplinary head and neck surgical team at Chris O'Brien Lifehouse, as the busiest head and neck unit in New South Wales. 

While this kind of surgical and reconstructive procedure is standard for our head and neck team, it is not available at all where Vivienne and Rodney live.

"Had it not been for the Chris O'Brien Lifehouse clinic at Port Macquarie, there's no way I would have gone to Sydney. The honest conversation about what would happen if my treatment continued to be delayed was definitely what I needed to hear." 

- Vivienne

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