Introduction: Cancer patients in Australia’s Northern Territory (NT) face unique challenges to accessing cancer-related community and allied health services (referred here as ‘health services’). This is in part due to the NT’s unique geographic, socioeconomic and demographic profile. This paper describes the use of health services by cancer patients in the NT.
Methods: Adult cancer patients attending appointments at a cancer centre in Darwin, NT and who were diagnosed within the past five years were invited to participate in face-to-face interviews about their use of allied and community health services. A descriptive analysis of health services utilization was conducted.
Results: Of the 76 participants interviewed, 63% identified as non-Indigenous, 53% female and 45% lived in very remote areas. Mean age at interview was 58.7 years (SD 13.2). Overall, 82% of participants utilized at least one health service since their cancer diagnosis. All Indigenous participants used at least one service, while 28% of non-Indigenous participants did not use any health service. The services most frequently used by participants were community services (42%) and information sources (40%).
Conclusion: The findings from this study suggest there is variation in the type of community and allied health services used by NT cancer patients across clinical and demographic groups (including Indigenous status). Further qualitative enquiry is needed to better understand this variation, which may reflect differences in service preference, accessibility, health literacy of patients or patient engagement. Such knowledge may inform service delivery improvements to better support cancer patients through their cancer care pathway.