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Equivalence of outcomes for rural and metropolitan patients with metastatic colorectal cancer in South Australia

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Metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) is the fourth most common cause of cancer death in Australia.1 The past 15 years have seen improved outcomes in patients with mCRC, largely due to increased chemotherapeutic and biological treatment options and widespread adoption of liver resection for liver-limited mCRC.2 These improvements have led to an increase in reported median survival from 12 to 24 months since 1995. Despite these advances, patients with unresectable mCRC usually die from the disease, with 5-year overall survival of about 15%.2 Initial treatment for mCRC involves combination chemotherapy or single-agent therapy. Survival is improved in patients who ultimately receive all three active chemotherapy drugs (oxaliplatin, irinotecan and a fluoropyrimidine)3 and have access to biological agents, such as bevacizumab.2

Australia’s geographical challenges (large land area and low population density) contribute to difficulties in service provision and disparity of cancer outcomes.4 Some authors have suggested the observed higher death rate among Australia’s rural population is the result of a double disadvantage: higher exposure to health hazards and poorer access to health services.5,