Does gynaecological cancer care meet the needs of Indigenous Australian women?

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Does gynaecological cancer care meet the needs of Indigenous Australian women?

Cancer is a leading driver in the health gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. There is a disparity in the burden of gynaecological cancer for Indigenous women compared with non-Indigenous women in Australia. Understanding how Indigenous women currently experience gynaecological cancer care services and factors that impact on their engagement with care is critical. This study explored Indigenous Australian women’s experience of gynaecological cancer care at a major metropolitan hospital in Queensland.

There is a pressing need for culturally-appropriate, person-centred cancer care and resources to be made available for Indigenous women diagnosed with a gynaecological cancer. The experiences of the Indigenous women in this study highlight some critical areas for change to meet their needs and improve the cancer outcomes of this currently underserved patient population. The Indigenous women in the study faced substantial challenges associated with late referral, misdiagnosis, miscommunication, lack of information, logistical challenges in accessing treatment and services, background life crises, and cultural insensitivities in the system.

While some of these issues are not in themselves particular to this population, it is the accumulation of these challenges that negatively impact on Indigenous women’s experiences of and engagement with cancer care. The overarching picture that emerges through this analysis is of a group of women at breaking point, often with limited access to resources and support. Cancer care services need to account for the commonality of these issues facing Indigenous women with gynaecological cancer and adapt their services and models of care to better support them through their cancer journey.

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