(Pictured: Peter Tiffin and Johnathan Thurston)
Two fund management industry identities, Perpetual Investments group executive Michael Gordon and Ambassador Funds Management Services director Peter Tiffin, have come together to help raise awareness of bowel cancer, the second biggest cause of cancer deaths in Australia. Both suffered from the disease last year and have recovered from their operations and treatment.
Working with different organisations – Gordon with the GI Cancer Institute and Tiffin with The Gut Foundation – the two are hopeful of getting the support of super funds, their administrators and their contributing employers in an awareness campaign.
According to statistics from Bowel Cancer Australia, one in 12 Australians will be diagnosed with bowel cancer before they turn 85. Of the 286 new cases diagnosed each week, 77 will die from the disease. It affects both men and women, young and old. But if detected early, 90 per cent of patients can be cured.
The UK’s National Cancer Intelligence Network estimates that 90 per cent of patients survive for at least five years if the cancer is detected early but only 10 per cent do so once the disease has reached stage three or four. And other cancers, such as melanoma, breast cancer and prostate cancer, tend to have much higher and earlier detection rates, probably because of greater awareness.
Gordon says that there tends to be more cohesive awareness campaigns for other cancers and better-funded organisations behind them.
The Gut Foundation has one very successful awareness campaign running at the moment in conjunction with the NRL – the Kick Bowel Cancer campaign. While most of NSW and Queensland enjoyed a cracker finals play off in the rugby league between North Queensland’s Cowboys (led by Johnathan Thurston, pictured with Peter Tiffin) and the Sydney Roosters on September 19, the highlight for Tiffin and his 14-year-old son Toby, was participating in the coin toss at the start. View Peter Tiffin’s story.
Tiffin and Gordon say the NRL campaign shows what can be done when people put their minds to it. “Super funds are in a great position to help,” Tiffin says, “because they are trusted by their members more than most financial organisations and they are in regular contact, both with paper correspondence and newsletters and online interaction. The funds are also able to identify people by age and other factors. About 93 per cent of people are over 50 when diagnosed with bowel cancer.”
The Federal Government sends men and women over 50 a test kit, but most people throw it out, Tiffin says. “I also think it’s a social justice issue. I don’t have the stats but I believe that poorer people and people living in regional areas do not get tested as regularly as better-off people and city folk. Industry funds, in particular, can reach these people.”
Gordon says: “The frustration is that bowel cancer is preventable. It’s one of the few cancers where they use the word ‘cure’ rather than ‘remission’. With early detection, the chances of survival improve sharply.”
An issue that both are aware of is that there are more than 100 types of cancers, as well as the other potentially fatal illnesses, such as heart disease and mental illness. Super funds may be wary of getting behind an awareness campaign for just one of them.
“I spoke to the CEO of one fund and he said that his fund put its energies into the Superfriend program for mental illness and suicide prevention. I would hope that those worthwhile programs and others like them continue too. They don’t need to be mutually exclusive,” said Tiffin. “If any funds would like to discuss suggestions to help raise awareness among members at minimal, or no, cost to them I have some suggestions I am happy to share with them or I am very happy to put them in contact with the right people at the peak bodies.”