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Latest research for women in rural and remote areas

June 2017

Treatment Decisions of Rural Women Diagnosed with Breast Cancer

In 2016, Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) undertook research to explore whether individuals living in rural areas make different treatment decisions to those in metropolitan areas. The research also explored what factors impact the decisions made by women in both areas. As part of the project, we developed an online survey and conducted a number of telephone interviews with members of BCNA’s Review & Survey Group living in outer regional, remote or very remote areas of Australia. In total, 815 women diagnosed with breast cancer completed the online survey. Telephone interviews were conducted with nine members of Review & Survey Group.

For more information about the project and findings, please go to BCNA’s Research Reports page here.

March 2016

Rural-urban disparities in stage of breast cancer diagnosis in Australia

Australian researchers have explored whether women living in rural areas are at risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer at a later stage than women living in urban areas.

Researchers used data from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health 1946-1951 and linked it with data from cancer registries in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. In total, the researchers included 195 women diagnosed with breast cancer in the research.

When conducting the study, the researchers characterised the stage of breast cancer women were diagnosed with as either ‘early’ or ‘late’. They also examined a range of factors, including: whether women lived in rural or urban areas, women’s country of birth, educational qualifications, marital status, body mass index (BMI) and menopausal status.

Approximately 39% of women were found to have been diagnosed with breast cancer at a late stage. When the researchers analysed whether women lived in a rural or urban area, they found that 40% of the women diagnosed at a late stage lived in rural areas compared with 36% of women in urban areas. Therefore, they noted that women living in rural areas did not appear to be at a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer at a later stage than women in urban areas.

However, when the researchers examined women’s BMI, they found that women who were over their idea body weight were more likely to be diagnosed at a late stage than women who were of normal weight (i.e. 42% of women who were overweight were diagnosed at a late stage compared to 31% of women who were in their healthy weight range). The researchers concluded that it appears body weight is a greater risk factor for women being diagnosed with breast cancer at a late stage than whether women live in a rural or urban area.

Source: Leung, J., Martin, J. and McLaughlin, d. (2016). ‘Rural-urban disparities in stage of breast cancer at diagnosis in Australian women,’ The Australian Journal of Rural Health, doi: 10.1111/ajr.12271.

April 2015

Urban-rural differences

Australian researchers have explored whether women living in a rural or regional location have worse breast cancer survival rates than women living in a major city.

Researchers used the NSW Central Cancer Registry to identify women aged 18 to 84 years, who were diagnosed with breast cancer in New South Wales between 1987 and 2007. In total, 63,757 women were included in the study. Of these women, 72.8 per cent (46,421) lived in a major city, 20.6 per cent (13,160) lived in an inner regional area and seven per cent (4,176) lived in a rural area.

The researchers found that the relative survival rate amongst all women increased between 1992 and 2007. The five-year relative survival rate was 81.5 per cent in 1992-96, and increased to 89.6 per cent in 2002-07.

The researchers found that, between 2002 and 2007, women were at greater risk of dying from breast cancer if they lived in a rural area than if they lived in a regional or metropolitan area.  The researchers noted that this may be due to women in rural and remote areas having reduced access to health services and having to travel greater distances for treatment.