Indigenous cancer survival improves significantly

NEW research shows survival rates for Indigenous cancer patients has improved significantly since the late 90s, despite the Indigenous and non-Indigenous survival disparity remaining unchanged.  

The study, conducted by Cancer Council, Menzies School of Health Research and Queensland Health, found an additional 10 per cent of Indigenous patients can expect to survive at least five years after a cancer diagnosis today than in the late 90s/early 2000s.  

Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift said despite these improvements, survival outcomes experienced by Indigenous people remained lower than for non-Indigenous people.  

"Our study found five-year cancer survival rates for Indigenous Queenslanders improved from 53 per cent in 1997-2006, to 59 per cent in 2007-2012," Ms Clift said.  

"Corresponding survival rates for non-Indigenous Queenslanders also improved, from 61 per cent in 1997-2006, to 65 per cent in 2007-2012.  

"However, there was no significant evidence that the difference in survival between Indigenous and non-Indigenous cancer patients reduced between the two time periods.  

"Tragically, the study found about 20 per cent of the cancer deaths among Indigenous cancer patients can still be attributed to the survival disparity, and this value has not reduced over time.  

"A better understanding at a population level of what is driving poorer survival and avoidable deaths will help to inform the collaborative development of targeted interventions, respecting principles of self-determination and engaging in meaningful dialogue with the Indigenous community."  

The study examined the data of 214,000 Queenslanders diagnosed with all cancer types aged between 20 and 89 years.  

While the survival inequality faced by Indigenous Australians after cancer is well-documented, this is one of the first studies in Queensland to determine its impact, and whether the inequality has changed over time.  

Menzies School of Health Research Associate Professor Gail Garvey said further improvement for Indigenous Australians would require better access to services.  

"Indigenous Queenslanders need better access to, and use of, medically effective and culturally accepted diagnostic, treatment and support services," Prof Garvey said.  

"It's important that Indigenous Australians are aware of and engaged in these services."  

Queensland Health Director-General Mr Michael Walsh said the findings of the study were positive but there was more work to be done.  

"Any improvements to survival rates are encouraging to the long-term Closing the Gap agenda," Mr Walsh said.   

"In Queensland, we're focusing on identifying initiatives specifically aimed at meeting the Close the Gap targets.    "This includes focusing on improved early diagnosis, treatment and management of the diseases and conditions that together contribute to 80 per cent of the health gap.  

"As detailed in Queensland Health's 10 year vision and strategy, by 2026, we aim to increase life expectancy for Indigenous males by 4.8 years and females by 5.1 years."   

More information about Cancer Council Queensland is available at cancerqld.org.au or 13 11 20.  


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