Although there is no standard definition of cancer recurrence, it is generally understood to refer to a cancer diagnosis following a period of remission. A cancer recurrence may be a secondary cancer or a new cancer diagnosis.
It is important to understand the frequency and variations in recurrence at a population level and specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
It is already known that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are more likely than other Australians to be diagnosed when cancer is at an advanced stage of development.1 Linking recurrence to stage at diagnosis, treatments received and relative survival can provide a more complete picture of the efficacy of cancer care.
There are particular challenges for people living in remote locations in accessing specialists for follow-up after cancer treatment finishes. At rural and remote health clinics, unscheduled reviews may involve multiple steps to organise and can be influenced by outreach assessment and appointment wait times. Cultural obligations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people may also affect when a patient can attend a specialist appointment, which may delay timely investigations and any subsequent treatment.
Fear of cancer recurrence is an important aspect of cancer survivorship for all Australians.2 Understanding the frequency of recurrence can provide an evidence base for follow-up and psychosocial care provided to cancer survivors.
There are currently no national data available for this indicator.
Cancer Australia is exploring approaches to the development and reporting of national cancer recurrence data as part of its Stage, Treatment and Recurrence (STaR) project.
Cancer Australia. Optimal Care Pathway for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with cancer. Step 5: Care after initial treatment and recovery; Step 6: Managing recurrent, residual or metastatic disease.
Cancer Australia - Information on the STaR project
1. Diaz A, Whop L, Valery P et al. Cancer outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in rural and remote areas. Aust J Rur Health. 2014;23(1):4–18.
2. Cancer Australia. Recommendations for the identification and management of fear of cancer recurrence in adult cancer survivors. Sydney: Cancer Australia. 2014.