Original Research

Unmet supportive care needs among Indigenous cancer patients across Australia


Christina M Bernardes1 PhD, Research Officer *

Abbey Diaz2 PhD, Post Doc

Patricia C Valery3 PhD, Team Head, Cancer and Chronic Disease Research Group

Sabe Sabesan4 Adjunct Professor

Siddhartha Baxi5 0, Radiation Oncologist and Director

Samar Aoun6 0, Professor

Sandra Thompson7 0, Chair of Rural Health, Director, Combined Universities Centre for Rural Health

Mari Lashbrook8 RN, RAN, Clinical Trials/Research Coordinator (Oncology)

name here
Gail Garvey9
PhD, Deputy director


1, 3 QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, 300 Herston Rd, Herston, QLD 4006; and Wellbeing and Preventable Chronic Disease Division, Menzies School of Health Research, Charles Darwin University, Brisbane, QLD 4000, Australia

2, 9 Wellbeing and Preventable Chronic Disease Division, Menzies School of Health Research, Charles Darwin University, Brisbane, QLD 4000, Australia

4 Department of Medical Oncology, Townsville Cancer Centre, Townsville Hospital and Health Services, Townsville, QLD 4814, Australia

5 South West Radiation Oncology Service, Cnr Bussell Highway & Robertson Drive, Bunbury, WA 6230, Australia

6 Palliative Care School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, Curtin University, Bentley Campus, WA 6845, Australia

7 Western Australian Centre for Rural Health, University of Western Australia, 167 Fitzgerald St, Geraldton, WA 6530, Australia

8 Riverina Regional Cancer Care Centre, 31 Meurant Ave, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2650, Australia

ACCEPTED: 12 June 2019

early abstract:

Background: Indigenous Australians with cancer tend to be diagnosed with more aggressive and advanced-stage disease, receive less treatment, have poorer survival, and lower quality of life than other Australians. Reducing these inequalities requires an understanding of the supportive care needs of this cancer group. 

Aims: This study aims to describe the type and extent of unmet supportive care needs of Indigenous Australian cancer patients.

Methods: A multicentre cross-sectional study recruited 145 Indigenous adults diagnosed with cancer in the last 5 years in four Australian states and territories. Using a culturally specific tool, unmet needs were assessed in four domains:‘physical and psychological’; ‘hospital care’; ‘information and communication’ and ‘practical and cultural’. Moderate to high unmet need is that which requires some or a lot more help to be addressed.

Results: Two-thirds (65%) of patients reported at least one moderate to high unmet need and 20% of patients had moderate to high unmet needs with five or more items. Overall, patients most commonly reported moderate to high unmet needs in the physical/psychological (46%) and practical/cultural domains (34%), than the information/communication (23%) and hospital care domains (16%). More specifically, ‘money worries’ was the most frequently reported moderate to high unmet need (20%).

Conclusion: Most Indigenous Australians living with cancer experience unmet supportive care needs. Physical/psychological and practical/cultural concerns were identified as priority areas for Indigenous cancer patients. These findings may inform priority areas for intervention towards optimal care pathways for Indigenous Australians diagnosed and living with cancer.