Matthew Burge colorectal cancer

Rocky doctor set to tackle mammoth mountain

Dr Matthew Burge is set to climb the highest mountain in the Southern Hemisphere, all in the name of cancer research.

The medical oncologist who works at the Mater Hospital in Rockhampton has been treating cancer patients locally for more than 10 years.

He was first attracted to the field as a junior doctor. The young man was always fascinated by the disease, what caused it and how it affected people.

Through his time in the field he has seen the advances in cancer care. He also knows that with good-quality research, better advances can be made, resulting in better patient outcomes.

However, that research needs funding.

So the medical research group, which Dr Burge is a member of, decided to join the Australasian Gastro-Intestinal Trials Group program and climb Mt Aconcagua in Argentina with hopes of raising $100,000, which would go towards Australian research into gastro-intestinal cancers.

Dr Burge said that while the three-week climb, set to take place in January, was a little nerve-racking, it was nothing compared to what cancer patients go through.

“It’s nearly 7000m of altitude so this will be a major, tough challenge and that is supposed to symbolise what our patients go through. We want to try and empathise with the hardship that our patients have to endure,” he said.

“I feel nervous as I’ve never climbed anything higher than Mt Kosciuszko but at least it’s supposed to be a trek so there are no vertical cliff faces or ropes but there will be ice and it will be minus-30 towards the summit.”

Dr Burge, who has been an oncologist for 15 years, has been training every day to ensure he is fit enough to take part in the climb.

“I already cycle 250km a week, that’s what I do ordinarily, but in addition to that I’ve seen an exercise physiologist to get strength training three times a week and bush walking and hiking as well as running,” he said.

“You have to carry your backpack as well so there are lots of chin-ups and sit-ups to strengthen your body.”

Dr Burge said the AGITG had conducted fundraising challenges for about five years now with Mt Aconcagua being the toughest yet.

“So previously they’ve done cycling across Cambodia, climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, but this is the biggest challenge to date to climb Mt Aconcagua,” he said. “It’s the highest mountain in the Southern Hemisphere and is the highest mountain outside of the Himalayas.

“We will be climbing that in January and we are going to try and raise approximately $100,000, which goes directly to Australian research into gastro-intestinal cancers.”

Gastro-intestinal cancer

The five-year survival rate for gastro-intestinal cancer is 49%.

Every 45 minutes, an Australian dies because of gastro-intestinal cancer.

To donate to Matt’s mammoth climb head to

Written by Zhanae Conway-Dodd
Reprinted with permission from The Morning Bulletin in Rockhampton