Thursday 2 November 2006
FAMILIAL BOWEL CANCER REGISTER
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Madam Deputy President, in a question that I put to the Government I referred to Tasmania's familial bowel cancer register asking whether the Government would agree to incorporate it into the Tasmanian Clinical Genetics Service and consider helping to fund what is presently a privately funded initiative. As the member for Rosevears I have a particular interest in this register because it was an initiative of the Riverside Lions Club. In July 2001, Tasmania was the only State without a familial bowel cancer register. But from little things big things grow and when Launceston gastroenterologist, Dr Chris Middleton, spoke to the Riverside Lions Club about the need for a register it decided to raise the necessary $50 000. That sum would be the initial funding to set up the register and run it for three years. The Clifford Craig Medical Research Trust and the Cancer Council came on board and other Lions clubs said they were willing to help raise funds.
Eventually 27 Lions clubs joined the effort. A registrar, Dr Ian Robertson, was appointed in April 2002. In October the following year, Lions started the campaign to have the register become part of the Health department so when donated funds ran out the register will continue to serve Tasmanians. That is the history of the Riverside Lions Club in helping set up this important database.
Why is Tasmania's familial bowel cancer register so important? Simply because in Tasmania it saves lives. Each year 12 to 15 Tasmanians develop bowel cancer because of genetic mutations. It is believed that between 600 and 1 000 Tasmanians carry genetic mutations which greatly increase their risk of bowel cancer. More than 80 per cent of these people will develop bowel cancer, half of them before they reach the age of 50, however regular screening based on the familial register is expected to reduce that figure by half within 10 to 15 years.
Because bowel cancer is the most preventable and treatable of the internal cancers a regular colonoscopy and the removal of early growths before they become cancerous can prevent 75 per cent to 90 per cent of bowel cancer deaths in Tasmania. Making sure that those at risk have regular check-ups is one of the main functions of the register but it also helps relatives to understand family genetic mutation and by using the central repository of information it helps the Department of Health and Human Services to plan services and of course it also helps research by identifying common factors among patients and helping researchers to find potential research subjects.
So far only about 100 of the up to 1 000 Tasmanians at risk are on the register. When all Tasmanians with a genetic mutation predisposing them to bowel cancer are on the register, genetic counselling can be offered to their relatives with regular check-ups and treatment to family members who also have the mutation. The potential is to cut by half bowel cancer deaths in Tasmania.
The Council adjourned at 6.39 p.m