Likelihood of death significantly higher for Indigenous than non-Indigenous cancer patients even after taking into account cancer stage at diagnosis, place of residence, cancer treatment and the presence of other medical conditions.
New findings published today in The Lancet confirm that Indigenous cancer patients in Queensland have poorer survival outcomes than comparable cancer patients who are non-Indigenous. This situation is similar to that found in previous studies undertaken in the Northern Territory and South Australia.
The Queensland Institute of Medical Research with the assistance of Queensland Health conducted the study which explores the assumption that equal access to public health services for cancer treatment results in equal outcomes.
815 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cancer patients and 810 non-Indigenous cancer patients diagnosed and treated in Queensland’s public hospital system from 1997 to 2002 were compared. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients were matched to non-Indigenous patients for age, sex, cancer site, year of diagnosis and place of residence.
In comparison to the matched non-Indigenous group, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients were diagnosed later, received less treatment and waited longer for cancer treatment when it was given. Survival during the study period on average was 383 days for non-Indigenous patients compared to 251 days for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients.
This study points to major problems occurring in the relevant management of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients but this study does not provide details about the precise reasons why these problems are occurring. Further studies are now being planned to find out why. Researchers suspect that physical and cultural barriers to accessing screening and treatment services and a different cultural view of cancer may contribute to the current situation. Researchers in the Northern Territory previously found Aboriginal people who did not use English as their first language (Indigenous language speakers) had poorer cancer survival. Use of Indigenous languages as a first language is not such a common problem in Queensland so does not explain the differences found in this study.
For more information about QIMR research or to make a donation, visit www.qimrberghofer.edu.au or call toll-free 1800 993 000.