Still a lot of room for improvement for cancer outcomes in rural and remote

03 February 2017

The latest report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare on Cancer in Australia 2017 shows significant room for improvements in access and outcomes in rural and remote areas.

David Butt, Chief Executive Officer of the National Rural Health Alliance, said today that while the report shows overall that the death rates for cancer in Australia continue to fall, this finding does not hold up across rural and remote communities.

“Sadly, the fact that new diagnoses of all cancers is lowest in very remote areas isn’t a good thing,” Mr Butt said. “Rather, it means people are being diagnosed later, which is why we also see higher death rates in these areas.

“Later diagnosis means fewer treatment options are available and those that are available require more invasive intervention. It also means that many people have to travel significant distances to major cities for treatment – away from the support of family and friends and adding to the cost of treatment. It also compounds the feeling of dislocation at what is already an extremely stressful time.

“There is some good news, as we are seeing lower rates of death due to melanoma, so the messages are getting out about the importance of using sunscreen and having regular skin checks.

“The most recent data available shows that while 13.0% of adults in Major cities smoke daily, 16.7% and 20.9% do so in Inner regional and Outer regional/remote areas respectively. We still have a lot of work to do to reduce smoking rates in rural and remote communities, which we know is closely linked to cancer diagnoses, as well as affecting the success of treatment for cancer and other illnesses.

“We also need to work harder to encourage women into screening for cervical cancer – one of the most easily treated of cancers if detected early” said Mr Butt.

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David Butt, CEO
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