Cancer patients need better regional health services

THE deaths of 640 bowel and breast cancer patients over a decade could have been avoided if there were no inequalities in cancer survival across regional Queensland, a new study has found.

The research has highlighted the need for policies and programs to improve health outcomes in regional areas.

Cancer Council Queensland chief Jeff Dunn said the study, published in the journal Health & Place, explored survival inequalities within five years of diagnosis across 478 regions in Queensland, based on earlier findings in CCQ's first atlas of cancer in Queensland.

"This is landmark work that highlights the importance of routine and timely access to health services for regional Queenslanders," he said. 

"There are a range of personal and broader external factors that influence the health behaviours of regional Queenslanders - this research demonstrates the vital need for regional people to seek out medical advice when they need it and without delay."

The Cancer Council Queensland and Queensland University of Technology analysed Queensland Cancer Registry data, looking at the impact of age, cancer stage at diagnosis, distance from treatment facilities and socioeconomic status on the survival of breast and bowel cancer patients in Queensland.

This found 8 % of the 6019 bowel cancer deaths (470 people) and 7 % of the 2412 women who died of breast cancer (170 people) in the 10 years to 2007 could have been avoided if there were no inequalities in cancer survival across geographical areas throughout Queensland.

"We tried to drill down and understand what was causing these inequalities," Professor Dunn said.

"Previous Cancer Council research has shown that breast and bowel cancer patients have significantly poorer survival in rural or disadvantaged areas, when compared to the Queensland average.

"If the impact of late diagnosis and socioeconomic disadvantage were removed there would be no geographical inequalities in breast cancer survival throughout Queensland.

"Women in more remote areas of Queensland were more likely to be diagnosed with advanced breast cancer and live in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas, and our study shows this is why these women experience lower survival rates.

"Research like this enables us to do more to address the disparities, and ensure greater quality of life and survival rates for people living with cancer."

The study found inequalities in bowel cancer survival decreased only moderately after adjusting for gender, age, cancer stage at diagnosis, area disadvantage and distance to treatment, suggesting other unknown reasons were important causes of geographical inequalities in survival throughout the state.

Topics:  bowel cancer breast cancer cancer cancer council queensland health services regional areas

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