Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples experience great disparity throughout the cancer journey. The incidence of cancer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is lower or similar to the general population. However, they experience higher morbidity and mortality rates.32
Epidemiological data demonstrate a number of differences in cancer incidence, survival and patterns of care between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Australia. Compared to non-Indigenous peoples, Indigenous people are more likely to:33
- be diagnosed with cancer at a later stage of the disease
- have poorer survival rates
- show increasing rates for some types of cancer
- have higher rates of preventable and particularly smoking-related cancers
- be less likely to have timely access to diagnostic methods and to continue cancer treatment.
To respond to these disparities, effective and culturally appropriate cancer control measures are required which consider the health beliefs influencing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s perception of cancer. Indigenous views, understandings and perspectives on cancer can vary between geographical location, communities and individuals. However some common themes concerning Indigenous beliefs in Australia that can influence the cancer experience and responses to a diagnosis of cancer for Indigenous people include:32
- cancer means death
- cancer is a “White man’s disease”
- punishment / curse / payback
- cancer is contagious
- people’s minds, feelings and perceptions have the power to fight cancer
- redetermined / destiny / fatalism
- cancer is not a priority here
- bodies are sacred.
Policy documents also recommend a number of health service design strategies to reduce disparities in Australia:32
- Improved data infrastructure (to identify health needs and to monitor outcomes of service initiatives for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples).
- Prevention (to reduce high risk behaviours and improve screening participation).
- Programs (need to assess the impact on Aboriginal health of all cancer control programs).
- Service delivery (comprehensive review of best approaches to facilitate and sustain Aboriginal ownership and involvement in all aspects of service delivery.
Cancer Australia. (2018). EdCaN module: Cancer Care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
- Summarise some of the cultural meanings of cancer that may be held by Indigenous peoples in Australia.
- Outline how these beliefs may influence models of care and principles for delivering cancer services to meet the needs of Indigenous people affected by cancer.