Pinjarra cancer survivor backs calls to make cancer prevention a health priority

Posted 10 Mar 2021.

Lutz Sztermula

A 62 year old Pinjarra man is backing a call by Cancer Council WA to make cancer the number one health priority for the next WA Government, as he now lives without a voice box following 40 years of smoking a packet of cigarettes a day.

Lutz Sztermula said he fully supports cancer prevention education programs that illustrate the physical and emotional devastation of head and neck cancers, such as throat cancer, caused by smoking.

"I started smoking as a kid, then about five years ago I quit for good after seeing my GP about some blood pressure issues," said Mr Sztermula.

"Then in 2019 I had a cold, but my voice just never really returned.

"I went back to the GP, and tests confirmed I had tumours in my throat and larynx.

"I had a total laryngectomy where they removed my larynx, followed by 33 doses of radiation therapy.

"I am now in the clear, but learning how to eat, speak and talk again, as well as getting used to breathing through a stoma is challenging.

"There are plenty of frustrations but I am coping day to day.

"I urge anyone who still smokes to quit now, before you end up under the knife like me."

We are calling on the next WA government to continue to invest in public education campaigns such as Make Smoking History, which has recently relaunched their graphic campaign titled Voice Box; one of the most graphic advertising campaigns developed since Make Smoking History was launched in 2000.

Our Make Smoking History Manager, Libby Jardine, said the campaign was developed following concern from WA health professionals about the low awareness of the causative link between smoking and head and neck cancers, and the life changing effects of the treatment for such cancers, such as laryngectomy.

"Research has shown that anti-smoking ads that use personal testimonies, graphic imagery, emotive messages and the negative health effects of smoking have been the most effective in prompting quit attempts," Ms Jardine said.

"As a result of these hard-hitting campaigns, we have saved tens of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, of lives.

"While smoking rates have decreased significantly in the past 20 years, it is vitally important that comprehensive, evidence-based approaches to tobacco control continue because the fight is far from over.

"Cancer prevention saves lives and money. There is much the next WA government can do to prevent smoking related cancer. From continuing to fund highly successful public education campaigns, to increasing access to smoke-free environments for all West Aussies by making all outdoor eating areas of liquor licensed premises 100 per cent smoke-free."

The Voice Box campaign will be on air until 17 April 2021 across metropolitan, regional and Aboriginal radio and TV stations, shopping centres and digital platforms


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