Achieving High Breast Cancer Survival for Women in Rural and Remote Areas

Document Type : Research Articles


1 School of Medicine and Dentistry, James Cook University, Australia Queensland Health, Australia.

2 Department of Surgery, Cairns and Hinterland Hospital & Health Service, Queensland Health, Australia.

3 Primary Health Care, School of Public Health, Institute of Medicine, the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

4 Research and Development Primary Health Care, Sweden.

5 James Cook University College of Medicine and Dentistry, Australia.


Background: Significant improvements in breast cancer survival have been made in the past few decades in many developed countries including Australia with a five-year relative survival of 90%. The aim of the present study is to obtain a brief estimate of the relative importance of demographic factors such as rurality, socio-economic standard and ethnicity versus traditional risk factors for women diagnosed with breast cancer in Far North Queensland, Australia. Methods: This was a retrospective longitudinal study of all women diagnosed with their first episode of breast cancer in 1999-2013 in Far North Queensland, Australia. Cox proportional hazards regression analysis was used to identify factors independently associated with mortality for women with any type of breast cancer (in situ or invasive) and for women with invasive cancer. Life tables were used to assess five and ten-year absolute survival. Standard linear regression and binary logistic regression were used to identify any association between demographic factors and late presentation. Results: Five and ten-year absolute survival was 0.90 and 0.86 respectively. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status, remoteness of area of residence, and socioeconomic status were not associated with more advanced disease at presentation or increased risk of breast cancer death. Only traditional risk factors such as increased tumour size, absence of progesterone receptor, high tumour grade and presence of metastasis in axillary lymph nodes were associated with increased risk of breast cancer death. Conclusion: The effect of the classical risk factors on breast cancer mortality outweighs the effects of demographic factors. The fact that ethnicity, remoteness and socioeconomic status is not associated with late presentation or breast cancer death suggests that given appropriate resources it may be possible to close the gap of inequalities in breast cancer.


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