People in rural and remote areas

People in rural and remote areas

About a third of Australians live in rural, regional and remote areas of the country. 

People in these communities can have extra challenges with cancer care, such as having to travel for tests or treatment.

For some people, this can cause financial and emotional stress, but there are support services that can help. 

Cancer treatment for rural and remote residents

People in rural or remote areas who are diagnosed with cancer often have to travel to a major city for treatment.

This can be because:

  • your closest town does not have the type of cancer specialists you need
  • the type of treatment you need (surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy) is not available near where you live
  • you have a rare cancer, or one that requires complex treatment, and have to travel to a recommended hospital.

Not everyone who is diagnosed with cancer has to travel long distances for treatment. There may be a regional cancer centre in a town nearby. 

If you do go to a regional cancer centre, you may see a specialist who is visiting from a major city. This is quite common. The specialist is sometimes called a visiting medical officer (VMO). 

Telehealth treatment

As technology improves, more rural and remote cancer patients will be able to use telehealth. This is also known as telemedicine.

Telehealth lets you have some appointments with your health care team through a telephone or video link. The person you see does not need to be in the same town, or even the same state as you. This can reduce the amount you have to travel.

Multidisciplinary care in rural areas

You are entitled to be treated by a specialist who is a member of a multidisciplinary team (MDT).

A multidisciplinary team (MDT) is a group of doctors, nurses and allied health professionals who treat cancer patients. Team members meet regularly to discuss their patients and plan their treatment.  Having your case reviewed by a MDT can improve the care you receive. 

In rural areas, your diagnosis and treatment can be reviewed:

  • locally using a video link
  • at a larger hospital that your specialist visits. 

Support for people who have to travel for treatment

There are some financial support programs for people who have to travel to receive specialist care:

  • Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme (IPTAAS) is a NSW Government program. It helps with travel and accommodation costs for people who need to travel more than 100 km for specialist care and treatment. 
  • Can Assist is a NSW charity running since 1955. It has local branches in some areas of NSW that provide support for country NSW cancer patients.
  • There are also other charities that offer assistance. Contact the Cancer Council for advice.
  • Some hospitals also offer subsidised accommodation for people from rural areas. Ask to speak to a social worker for advice.

Where to get help

There are people you can talk to for more information or support.

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