Cancer survivorship for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and their carers

The following key messages have been developed through consultation with Menzies School of Health Research, the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), the Peter Mac Aboriginal Liaison Officer and Aboriginal Project Officer, the Peter Mac Aboriginal Advisory Committee, and First Nations consumers from Peter Mac.

Introduction

The term ‘cancer survivor’ is used to describe someone from the time of their cancer diagnosis and throughout the rest of their life. The Australian Cancer Survivorship Centre (ACSC) focuses on the time after treatment, also known as ‘survivorship’. 

The time after cancer and its treatment can often bring new challenges. Survivorship is different for everyone, and needs to be understood within the context of family, community and culture. 

What does it mean to be a cancer survivor?

Some people, including community, may not feel comfortable with the term cancer survivor. There is no right or wrong term to describe an individual who has finished cancer treatment. Regardless of the terms used, what is important is that you and your carers continue to look after yourselves once treatment is finished.

What does survivorship mean for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and their carers?

End of treatment is an important milestone, but it can also bring about new challenges for survivors and their carers. Key challenges reported by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and their carers include:

  • not knowing what services exist
  • barriers to accessing culturally relevant services
  • financial worries
  • worry about family and community. 

Changing how you think about cancer and life after cancer

Many patients, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, can have negative views of cancer and have difficulty talking about their cancer. Knowing that it is possible to live well after cancer can mean you feel more confident to look after yourself and go to your follow up appointments, and to visit a health professional for any new or recurring issues. 

What you can do to look after yourself and your community

You can live well after cancer. Key steps to living well after cancer are:

  • eating well
  • exercising regularly
  • attending health appointments.

It also shows family and community that cancer survivorship can be a positive experience. There are services available for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and their carers after cancer. See the list below.

Where you can find culturally relevant information, resources and support:

Cancer Australia

For information and resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people affected by cancer

Cancer Council

For information and support by specially trained staff, to answer your questions about cancer, explain what will happen during your cancer care and link you to support groups and other community resources

Cancer Council Online Community

To connect with others in a supportive online community for people affected by cancer

Carers Australia

For support and advice for all carers

Australian Cancer Survivorship Centre

Resources and information for all cancer survivors and their carers, including information on common cancer survivorship issues.

National Indigenous Cancer Network

For information about cancer, and resources and links to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people affected by cancer

Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO)

The Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (VAHS)

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People who live outside Melbourne

Attending appointments for healthcare, including follow up care after cancer, can be time consuming and may not always fit with family life. Local services closer to home, such as general practitioners (GPs) or Aboriginal Health Workers at your local Aboriginal health services, are available for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and their carers who live outside of Melbourne. Accessing these services can reduce the burden of having to travel.