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Queensland-first study set to help close regional cancer divide

One regional Queenslander will die every day from cancer because they live outside a major city – a statistic Queensland researchers are dedicated to changing.

Researchers from Cancer Council Queensland and University of Southern Queensland have launched a Queensland-first study, Travelling for Treatment, investigating the experiences of rural and regional cancer patients who are required to travel for treatment.

Cancer patients staying at Cancer Council’s accommodation lodges across the state will be invited to participate to help researchers better understand why cancer survival rates are lower in country areas than in the city.

University of Southern Queensland Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Jeff Dunn AO, said gaining a deeper understanding into the challenges faced by regional Queenslanders would shape future initiatives and support services designed to combat regional inequalities.

“A cancer diagnosis in rural and regional Australia is unfortunately associated with poorer survival rates and lower quality of life when compared to metropolitan areas,” Professor Dunn said.

“This is concerning, considering that 30 per cent of all Australians live outside a major population centre.

“This geographical disparity is potentially due to a range of access, socio-demographic, behavioural and cultural factors, unique to non-metropolitan Australians, which exacerbate the challenges associated with living with and treating cancer – but more research needs to be done.

“This new project aims to understand the journey of a regional cancer patient, from diagnosis, through treatment and follow-up.

“We are especially interested in perceptions about cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment pathways; satisfaction with healthcare; and the unique needs of regional and rural people.

“The research will help us develop and implement interventions to improve outcomes for regional and rural cancer patients and their carers, especially those who must travel for treatment.”

Cancer Council Queensland CEO Ms Chris McMillan said closing the gap in regional survival was core to Cancer Council’s mission and key to cancer control in Queensland.

“We are proud to partner with USQ to investigate ways of bridging the health divide by connecting with regional cancer patients,” Ms McMillan said.

“It has long been established that cancer patients living in outer regional areas are more likely to die within five years of a diagnosis than those living in cities.

“More than 27,000 Queenslanders are diagnosed with cancer each year and 8700 die from the disease.

“Our research estimates 13 per cent of all regional cancer deaths are preventable, with about 350 deaths avoidable each year if survival rates in the bush were equal to those in the city.”

The project will invite over 3500 cancer patients and their carers staying at Cancer Council’s Accommodation Lodges to participate by sharing their experiences through interviews and surveys.

The study will cover topics including the burden of a diagnosis on health, adherence to treatment, attitudes and stigma associated with cancer, knowledge of support services and care needs, and general demographics.

Source: USQ

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