Living with cancer in rural Australia

Technology is helping cancer patients in rural and remote areas to access support more easily.

Australians who have cancer and live in rural and remote areas of the country tend to suffer poorer health outcomes than those who are based in metropolitan areas, according to research carried out by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

City versus regional Australia

According to Cancer Council Australia director of public policy Paul Grogan, this gap in health outcomes is due to a range of reasons, including reduced access to medical care outside the big cities.

“People in remote areas are often only diagnosed when their cancer is at a later stage, and when their cancer is more difficult to treat,” he says. Grogan adds that having to travel vast distances to cancer centres can make it more difficult for people to receive the treatment they need.

“Cancer screening, and in particular attending follow-up tests or services, can be more difficult for people living outside cities. On top of this, people in rural and remote areas are more likely to have poorer health due to smoking, drinking alcohol and poor nutrition.”

Old man on laptop

How technology is helping

While there have been initiatives, such as the introduction of Regional Cancer Centres, to help bridge this gap, technology is now also playing a role.

“Technology has played a big role in helping to connect people in regional and rural areas across the country with support that they may not have been able to reach before, or that they would have had to travel long distances to get,” says Cancer Council NSW practical support unit manager Annie Miller.

One example of this is the Cancer Council’s webinar series, or live meet-ups over the web, which can include presentations, discussions or instructional sessions, which can be accessed through a live chat or watched later.

Webinar topics include:
• returning to work after cancer treatment
• helping carers cope with caring for a loved one with cancer
• dealing with the fear of cancer returning
• how to rekindle your sex life after cancer.

“Using webinars or online systems means anyone with an internet connection and computer can get the support they need, no matter where they are,” says Miller.

“Using webinars or online systems means anyone with an internet connection and computer can get the support they need, no matter where they are.”

Where to get some extra help

The Cancer Council runs a range of webinars throughout the year. They also offer Cancer Connections – a moderated online peer-support community where patients, partners, family and friends, young adults and survivors can share their story, meet and connect with others, discuss tips and experiences and find, give and receive support.

Cancer patients and survivors can join communities and groups that match their interests or needs. For more information visit Cancer Connections.

To find out more about Cancer Council’s support services in your local area, call 13 11 20 or visit Cancer Council Australia.

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