Patient preferences, region linked to bowel cancer survival

Health professionals

Regional, rural and remote bowel cancer patients experience poorer survival rates and less optimal clinical management than those living in metro areas, new research by Cancer Council Queensland and University of Southern Queensland has found.

The study, published in BMC Cancer, focused on a review of research papers from 1990 to 2016 and found individual patient preferences and where a Queenslander lived played an important role in bowel cancer survival.

Cancer Council Queensland CEO Ms Chris McMillan highlighted the new report to help raise awareness of bowel cancer this month.

“The review found patients with bowel cancer in regional, rural and remote parts of Australia had a poorer survival rate and experienced less optimal clinical management than those living in metro areas,” Ms McMillan said.

“However, more research is urgently needed to further investigate our findings. Our study found access to treatment and services is not always the main driver of disparities.

“Individual patient characteristics play an important role in patient outcomes.

“Decisions about treatment are influenced by a patient’s characteristics and system level factors, which can themselves be related to geographical location.

“A patient’s characteristics include factors like age, gender, Indigenous status and health insurance status.

“System level factors refer to access to treatment, centre waitlists, and surgeon or hospital case-loading – which are taken into consideration by the patient.

“Regarding whether a patient follows prescribed treatment – patients may personally choose approaches that minimise disruptions to their lives – for example, moving to a larger town during treatment.

“Although somewhat inconsistent, the review confirms that survival is poorer for bowel cancer patients outside of major cities, and is likely due to a range of contributing factors.”

The study reviewed 43 published research articles from 1990 to 2016, with research completed on a national Australian population, and state-specific studies included.

University of Southern Queensland Professor of Social and Behavioral Science, Professor Jeff Dunn AO, said more research was needed to fully understand bowel cancer survival disparities.

“We’re committed to continuing our work with Cancer Council Queensland to ensure that all Queenslanders have access to adequate treatment and services,” Prof Dunn said.

“There is an urgent need for more research to be conducted, particularly with respect to rates of treatment completion, adherence to recommended follow-up, experience of stomas, psychosocial care, psychological distress and quality of life.

“A better understanding of the factors driving ongoing and significant geographical disparities in cancer-related outcomes is needed.

“This research will inform the development of effective interventions to improve the health and welfare of regional Queenslanders.”

More than 3000 Queenslanders are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year, and about 1000 die from the disease.

Cancer Council is encouraging eligible Queenslanders to participate in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

The National Bowel Cancer Screening program currently invites men and women turning 50, 54, 55, 58, 60, 64, 68, 70, 72 and 74 to screen.

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

For more information or interviews, please contact:
Laura McKoy,
Media Manager,
Cancer Council Queensland

Phone: (07) 3634 5345
Mobile: 0409 001 171