Cancer

Cancer is a term used for a variety of diseases that cause damage to the cells of the body [1][2]. Normally cells grow and multiply in a controlled way, but cancer causes cells to grow and multiply in an uncontrolled way. If these damaged cells spread into surrounding areas or to different parts of the body, they are known as malignant. Some cancers can be treated, but the effectiveness of treatment and survival rates vary between different types of cancer and patients [32698].

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience high rates of cancer due to risk factors associated with socioeconomic disadvantage, such as lower education and employment rates and poor access to health services – especially in remote regions of Australia. In addition, greater instances of modifiable risk behaviours like poor diet, sedentary behaviour and smoking, means that for some cancers, such as lung cancer, there are lower survival and higher mortality rates [36771][35151]. Other factors that influence cancer outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people include:

  • a higher chance of developing cancers with lower survival rates
  • their cancer tends to be more advanced by the time it is found
  • they are less likely to receive optimal treatment [36771][35151][33087].

Evidence suggests that best practice for managing cancer among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people requires evidence-based, person-centred, collaborative and culturally relevant health care [40853][30100][35381]. Taking a holistic approach, that focuses on the healing process, can complement the biomedical model of healthcare and support the spiritual, cultural, emotional and social needs of Aboriginal people who have been diagnosed with cancer [43888]. In addition, community-based initiatives that empower people to engage with cancer services are beneficial [30100].

The Optimal care pathway for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with cancer  is a national resource that provides guidance to health professionals in ensuring quality care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with cancer, to improve their treatment experience and outcomes.

References

Key resources

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Artwork

Karnta by Corinne Nampijinpa Ryan

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