Regions left waiting for blood cancer care

·2-min read

Olivia Richards found a lump on her neck on Christmas Eve last year.

The 23-year-old went to her local doctor in Hawkesbury, northwest of Sydney, knowing there was something wrong.

Her initial blood tests came back clear so she was only prescribed antibiotics but the lump grew bigger.

Four months later, she was finally referred to a haematologist who diagnosed her with stage two Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

"It was a big shock. I just started placement and it was meant to be my final year of university," she told AAP.

"I was quite upset but I had my two days of crying and coming to terms with everything. Then I quickly flipped my mindset."

Miss Richards needed chemotherapy for the blood cancer but her closest treatment site was a Sydney hospital 40 minutes away.

It made an already exhausting experience more tiring.

"After chemo, all you want to do is go home and go to bed," she said.

"You're so nauseous and I get carsick as well."

Miss Richards' story is not dissimilar to others in regional and rural Australia, according to new Lymphoma Australia research released on Thursday.

Two thirds of lymphoma patients said they are unable to access treatment for their lymphoma within their regional or rural town, while one in three said the distance to a treatment centre stopped them from receiving care.

"Patients can be travelling up to five or six hours just to get to treatment," Lymphoma Australia chief executive Sharon Winton told AAP.

"That adds not only a time burden but a financial burden as well."

There are more than 80 different subtypes of lymphoma and symptoms for the blood cancer can be very minor.

That can make it harder for people to obtain a diagnosis, Ms Winton said, especially if regional and rural GPs don't know what to look for.

"Step one is more about community education and also at the health professional level," she said.

"We've had our lymphoma care nurses working in different areas in rural and regional Australia to bring them up to speed."

There also needs to be more treatment options brought to the regions - either in person or virtually - so people don't need to travel so far for care, Ms Winton said.

"We want everybody to have the right to live for as long as possible and not be disadvantaged because they're not able to get the treatment that they need," she said.

Miss Richards no longer has to make the long trek to Sydney after finishing her chemotherapy last month.

She will find out in the coming weeks if she needs any further treatment.

"I feel like I'm getting back to my normal self," she said.

"I'm quite positive I've got a good result. Obviously, I don't know but my doctor was really confident with the treatment."