Delegates at the Multinational Association for Supportive Care in Cancer Conference were told yesterday that there are a number of gaps in the supportive care services for Aboriginal cancer patients that are contributing to poorer outcomes and higher mortality rates.
Dr. Jasmine Micklem from the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), says that while it’s well understood that Aboriginal people are less likely to survive a cancer diagnosis – up until now most of the research has focused on cancer risk factors or service delivery, rather than supportive care for Indigenous patients.
“Cancer is the second most common cause of death amongst Aboriginal people today.” Dr. Jasmine Micklem
“While the overall rates of cancer in the Aboriginal population are similar to the rest of the population – mortality rates are significantly higher”, said Dr Micklem.
“Our study is the first of its kind to link state-wide epidemiological data with narrative data, to discover what is contributing to these disparities – and the most common gaps and barriers have been found in supportive care.”
This work in South Australia has involved speaking with 29 Aboriginal people with experience of cancer, 13 carers and family members, and 22 service providers to identify the most common issues and shortfalls of the health system.
Dr. Micklem spoke alongside Aunty Rosyln Weetra – a well-respected Narrunga and Kaurna Elder and cancer survivor who gave a first-hand point of view on some of the key issues raised – including language and communication barriers, lack of awareness about cancer and related services, physical access to care and cultural barriers – such as a lack of understanding about the importance of working alongside traditional healers.
Aboriginal cancer survivors say the research shows how the health system needs to change and highlights the importance of specific cancer care interventions – including engaging and supporting more Aboriginal staff to provide appropriate support and co-ordination of care for Aboriginal patients.
The Cancer Data and Aboriginal Disparities (CanDAD) Project is a NHMRC grant funded collaborative partnership between Cancer Council SA’s Beat Cancer Project, the University of South Australia, SAHMRI, SA Health (SA Cancer Services and Breast Screen SA), the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia, Cancer Council SA and SA-NT DataLink.[hr]