Approximately one third of Australians with cancer live in regional and rural areas of the country. They have a lower rate of survival than those in city areas because of less availability of diagnostic and treatment services, later diagnosis, and lower socioeconomic status. This article explores rural oncology and how it allows patients to access specialist services usually available only to those situated in major cities. As the remoteness of hospitals increases, treatment and support are increasingly provided by less specialized staff. Rural oncology services offer patients access to an oncologist in their community. It combines research with community care. It puts together a whole team of oncologists, general practitioners, nursing and support staff, other allied health staff, and patients and their families. The use of technology, enabling teleconferencing and videoconferencing, allows contact among all members of a patient's care team and the patient. It allows for shared care of the patient with the general practitioner during follow-up and results in a reduction in hospital visits. This article gives an overview of the rural oncology experience in the New England region of Australia and of the future direction of the oncology team in this region. This includes community-oriented projects focused on improving cancer care for patients of the New England region, including one involving the Aboriginal community.
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