A young man fighting a rare and aggressive bone cancer has been refused government assistance to receive life-saving treatment overseas.
Brodie Ross, an Oxley Park local, was diagnosed with Skull Base Chondrosarcoma in the right cavernous sinus lesion at the age of 21 earlier this year.
According to his mother, Chantel Fisher, he started having vision problems in September last year.
“He was referred to an eye specialist who sent Brodie straight to the emergency department for urgent review,” she told the Weekender.
“After MRIs, CT scans and blood work Brodie received the news, about a week or so later, that they had found a mass sitting just outside the brain behind the right eye.”
In December, a neurosurgeon at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse performed a biopsy and Ross was sent home on Christmas Day.
“They sent it away for testing and it just took forever,” Fisher said.
“In early February we got the call.
“They confirmed that it was cancer, and it was Chondrosarcoma, which is exactly what they thought it was.”
When it came to treatment options, Ross’ oncologist insisted that Proton Beam Therapy, which is currently available in Switzerland, would be best.
According to Fisher, they were advised to apply for financial assistance through the Medical Treatment Overseas Program (MTOP) because it won’t be available in Australia until 2025.
She said they received a letter from the Department of Health and Aged Care last month, saying that Ross was not eligible because the proposed overseas treatment or an effective alternative treatment must not be available in Australia in-time to benefit the applicant. The letter said the treatment Ross was trying to access is “recognised” and “very reasonable to ask for”.
Despite this, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists (RANZCR) were not able to reach a unanimous decision on whether an effective alternative treatment is available.
“Proton therapy is an accepted form of radiation treatment but not widely available because of the high capital costs,” the letter said.
“This treatment is widely recognised as appropriate for base of skull Chondrosarcoma and is regarded as the centre of care in Switzerland.”
Fisher is devastated by this news and has applied for the board to review their decision.
“They’ve got up to three months, and it’s already been five weeks,” she said.
“There’s no guarantee they’re going to review it and say that he can have the treatment.”
But still, she is hopeful that she will garner the support for her son to receive this life-saving treatment.
“It’s been a long nine months,” she said.
“You don’t ever want to hear anyone that you know has got cancer let alone your child, like I know he’s 21 but he’s still my kid,” she said.
“He’s just starting his life – he just got a full-time job and was working, but basically his whole life stopped when they found this.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Aged Care said they could not comment on this case specifically for privacy reasons.
“Applications to the Program are considered on the advice of a panel of departmental medical advisers (the Panel) in conjunction with information provided by the applicant’s Australian treating specialist, as well as advice from relevant Colleges and other medical experts in Australia,” the spokesperson said.
“The role of the Panel is then to weigh up the information in the application, along with the external expert advice, including any differing views, and consider whether the application meets the four eligibility criteria as set out in the MTOP Guidelines.
“In relation to applications for Proton Beam Therapy, the Panel will consider whether Proton Beam Therapy provides significant improvement in health outcomes compared to any alternative treatment available in Australia such as photon radiation.
Where applications are not approved, there is a mechanism available for the Australian treating specialist to request a review of the decision by the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer.”
You can assist Brodie at https://bit.ly/wwbrodie.
Formerly with the ABC, Makayla is a graduate of Western Sydney University. She covers a variety of news topics for the Weekender, including courts.