Aboriginal women are far less likely to survive breast cancer than other Australians, according to a study that shows many are diagnosed too late for effective surgery.
Aboriginal women tend to be younger than non-indigenous Australians when diagnosed, but even then they are likely to have the disease at a more advanced stage.
Their risk of death is almost a third higher than other Australians, according to a seven-year review of the 27,850 NSW patients conducted by Cancer Council NSW.
Although breast cancer awareness has improved, more work is needed to remove barriers to screening and early diagnosis, says researcher Rajah Supramaniam.
His study, published in the journal BMC Cancer, shows a relatively small proportion of Aboriginal women are receiving surgery for their breast cancer.
“That’s driving this difference in survival rates.”
Apart from late detection, previous research shows Aboriginal women delay treatment for practical and psychological reasons.
These include transport or accommodation issues as well as fear of being treated in an unfamiliar place away from family and friends.
Although screening vans visit remote towns, Mr Supramaniam says some women struggle to go for a mammogram because of family and work commitments.
“Awareness of what breast screening is and how it improves survival is a big part of the solution.”
People who are worried about screening should speak to their GP or call the Cancer Council helpline, he says.
“Cancer Council staff have had cultural-respect training and are sensitive to issues that might concern Aboriginal women.”
*The Cancer Council helpline can be reached on 131120