What is known?
There is a popular belief that people living in rural Australia are unique to those living in major cities. They are often described as “stoic”, “stubborn”, or “battlers” due to the fact that a certain level of resilience is required to endure tough conditions such as drought and isolation. In the scientific literature, concern exists that people living in rural areas may tend to put off or avoid seeking medical attention due to their self-sufficient lifestyle and stoic attitudes in the face of adversity. There is some evidence to support this in the general healthy rural population. However, less is known about the effect of these attitudes on the help-seeking behaviours of rural cancer survivors.
What is new?
Rural cancer survivors who had a tendency to be particularly self-reliant or to minimise health problems were no more likely than those who did not report these traits, to delay seeking medical attention upon noticing symptoms. These rural cancer survivors were also just as likely to have had their cancer diagnosed through a screening program or to seek support and information after a diagnosis.
What does this mean?
When faced with a serious threat to health such as a cancer diagnosis, stoicism does not appear to be a barrier to seeking medical attention and support for people living in rural areas. Stereotyping of rural residents and their approach to health may not be helpful when addressing cancer care and we need to turn our focus towards identifying and addressing the factors that do make a difference in cancer outcomes for this group.
Contact: Belinda Goodwin
Reference: Goodwin BC, Chambers S, Aitken J, Ralph N, March S, Ireland M, Rowe A, Crawford-Williams F, Zajdlewicz L, Dunn J. Cancer-related help-seeking in cancer survivors living in regional and remote Australia. Psycho-Oncology. 2021. doi: 10.1002/pon.5643.