While our understanding about the impact of breast cancer is improving, little is known about quality of life following diagnosis and treatment among women in non-urban areas. It is important for the experiences of regional and rural women to be investigated and improved, particularly as 45% of breast cancer survivors in Queensland live outside major metropolitan areas. Subsequently, the ‘Regional and Rural Breast Cancer Study’ was developed to investigate the physical limitations faced by breast cancer survivors living in regional and rural areas of Queensland, as well as the emotional and social impacts on everyday lives.
It’s clear that there are significant differences between women with breast cancer living in cities and those outside of metropolitan areas. For example, regional and rural patients who require radiotherapy can only access that service in one of three major centres, only one of which is located outside Brisbane. Following treatment, many breast cancer survivors experience a range of disabilities that adversely affect their physical and psychosocial functioning, for example, social interactions and integration, reduced upper-body function, an inability to perform usually daily activities, as well as feelings of distress, or poor body image at some stage after their diagnosis.
This information will be compared to a sample of urban breast cancer survivors and from a general population sample of women residing in Queensland. The availability of these additional comparison groups provides a unique opportunity to identify aspects of quality of life that are compromised among non-urban breast cancer survivors. Research comparing breast cancer survivors with the general population without the disease has the potential to identify subgroups of women who sustain lasting difficulties and who are below the general population level in terms of quality of life.
It is hoped that this project will ultimately lead to the improved management of women after surgery, particularly those from non-urban areas of Queensland, through recommendations for improvement of services, more timely and appropriate referrals for supportive care, or other relevant interventions.
Di Sipio T, Hayes S, Newman B, Aitken J, Janda M. (2010). Does quality of life among breast cancer survivors one year afetr diagnosis differ depending on urban and non-urban residence? A comparative study. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes. 8(3).
Di Sipio T, Hayes S, Newman B, Janda M (2009) What determines the health-related quality of life among regional and rural breast cancer survivors? Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. 33(6): 534-539.