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Cancer health inequality persists in regional and remote Australia

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High-quality oncology care in rural Australia requires ongoing government commitment

One in two men and one in three women in Australia will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime, with malignant disease accounting for 30% of all deaths.1 Over the past 30 years, cancer incidence has increased by 27%, during which time 5-year survival has improved from 47% to 66%.2

The cost of cancer care has increased rapidly with advances in early diagnosis, surgical techniques, systemic therapy and radiotherapy. However, despite malignancy contributing to over 30% of mortality, direct cancer health costs comprise only 7% of the health budget for chronic diseases.3

The scale of the rural cancer inequality

About a third of Australia’s population resides in regional and remote areas.4 For almost 20 years, the poorer cancer survival with increasing rurality has been well documented.5 Proponents of equitable cancer services for rural populations have included the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia and Cancer Council Australia, accompanied by prescient editorials in the MJA.6,7 Over the decade to 2010, the disparity in cancer outcomes between rural…