Enhancing the Quality of Life of Breast Cancer Survivors in the South West of Western Australia

The purpose of this study was to determine the major factors that contribute to psychosocial distress amongst breast cancer survivors in South West WA. The study also aimed to highlight the factors that influenced survivors’ ability to thrive and develop resilience.

The objectives of this project, conducted by researchers at Edith Cowan University, the Rural Clinical School of WA and Curtin University, were to;

  1. Gain a comprehensive understanding of the key factors affecting the quality of life of women with breast cancer living in the South West of Western Australia
  2. Use this understanding to identify the ways in which the psychological / emotional well-being and quality of life of these women can be enhanced
  3. Make a series of practical recommendations to government policy makers, clinicians and support networks as to how the unique needs and concerns of rural women in general can be met
  4. Add meaningfully to the body of literature that focuses specifically on the psychological wellbeing of breast cancer survivors in rural locations
  5. Identify areas in which further research is needed.

The study revealed satisfaction with health information relevant to the patient’s clinical situation and satisfaction with information specific to side effects associated with the form of treatment. Support from friends, support from partners and concern about body image impacted significantly on optimism and feelings of helplessness, which in turn, affected survivors’ psychosocial wellbeing. Factors which influenced psychological wellbeing included, age, distance from treating centre and the type of surgery that patients underwent (mastectomy compared to less radical surgery).

A series of recommendations for action, based on the sound empirical evidence derived from the study, were put forward for consideration by relevant stakeholders. Should these recommendations be implemented in a timely and efficient manner, the psychosocial quality of life and wellbeing of breast cancer survivors in the South West of WA can be significantly and meaningfully enhanced. The successful implementation of recommendations may also establish the South West region as the Australian standard of excellence in regional and rural breast cancer support.

Research Team:

Dr Christopher Chalon (BA, PGDipBus, PhD) – Principal Investigator
Dr Keith Howe (MBBS, DRCOG, FRACGP) – Co-Investigator
Dr Bronwyn Pierce (MBBS, FACEM) – Co-Investigator
Dr Moira O’Connor (BAHons, MSc, PhD) – Co-Investigator
Ms Catherine Woulfe (BSc, DipEd, DipCompSc) – Research Associate