Previous studies have shown poorer breast cancer outcomes for women from lower socioeconomic areas (i.e. areas of low income and education levels and high unemployment) in Australia and overseas. Some researchers thought this could be due to more advanced stages of cancers at diagnosis for these women or differences in treatment.
This study investigated possible reasons for poorer outcomes in lower socioeconomic areas. It was found that, in Australia, women from lower socioeconomic areas do not have more advanced cancers at diagnosis. Their cancer and treatment appeared similar to those of women from higher socioeconomic areas, other than being less likely to have treatment designed to cease hormone production by the ovaries (ovarian ablation) and being less likely to be referred from early detection sources other than BreastScreen.
The results also showed that women from lower socioeconomic areas were more likely to live in more remote areas and have their treatment in regional rather than major city treatment centres. Previous research has shown lower survivals for women treated in regional centres.
The study results suggest that poorer outcomes in women from lower socioeconomic areas in Australia may have less to do with features of their breast cancers or treatment and more to do with health system issues, such as access to specialist centres.