Psychological distress among Indigenous Australian cancer survivors

Gail Garvey, J. Cunningham, M. Janda, Vincent Yaofeng He, P. C. Valery

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Purpose: The purpose of this study is to identify the level of and factors associated with distress in 155 Indigenous Australian cancer survivors approximately 6 months post-diagnosis. 

    Methods: The distress thermometer (DT) was used to assess clinically significant distress (defined as having a DT score ≥ 4). Logistic regression was used to identify sociodemographic and clinical factors associated with clinically significant distress. 

    Results: The mean distress score was 2.7 (SD 2.9), with about one in three Indigenous cancer survivors reporting clinically significant distress (35%; n = 54). After adjusting for age and sex, clinically significant distress was more likely among those who were separated/divorced/widowed than those who were married (odds ratio (OR) = 2.99, 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) 1.21–7.35, p = 0.017) and less likely among those residing in remote areas than those in major cities (OR = 0.23, 95% CI 0.08–0.71, p = 0.001) and in those receiving non-surgical treatment only compared with surgery only (OR = 0.24, 95% CI 0.08–0.68, p = 0.008). 

    Conclusions: Despite increased screening for distress in cancer care, this is, to our knowledge, the first published assessment of distress among Indigenous Australian cancer survivors. The characteristics of Indigenous cancer survivors associated with greater likelihood of clinically significant distress indicate at-risk subgroups who would benefit from screening and early intervention. Further research is required to identify the specific aetiologies of distress. Our findings indicate a need to identify psychological distress and for survivorship care to include culturally sensitive and tailored psychological support for Indigenous cancer survivors.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1737-1746
    Number of pages10
    JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
    Issue number6
    Early online date2017
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


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