Higher cancer death rate for regions

REGIONAL Australians are still more likely to die of cancer despite progress in narrowing the city-rural divide, according to new research published in the Medical Journal of Australia.

Rural medical oncologists Peter Fox and Adam Joyce called on state and federal governments to "ensure equitable cancer care for all Australians, regardless of where they reside".

"Over the decade to 2010, the disparity in cancer outcomes between rural and urban patients has remained unchanged with seven per cent higher mortality, equating to almost 9000 additional rural deaths during this period," they wrote.

"The disparity was greatest with oesophageal cancer and melanoma."

The establishment of the regional cancer centre initiative announced in 2010 was heralded as a move in the right direction - as was the increasing adoption of "novel approaches" such as tele-health, shared care and surgical oncology networks.

The authors recommended the adoption of national staffing standards for rural oncology units in order to "deliver uniform care" and increased travel subsidies for regional patients.

"Expanding tele-health hardware infrastructure and maintaining Medicare tele-health incentives will ensure the strength of this modality," the doctors wrote.

About 128,290 Australians are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in 2014, with 149,990 diagnoses estimated for 2020.

- APN Newsdesk