Better support for Indigenous Australians diagnosed with breast cancer

Release Date

Indigenous Australians affected by breast cancer will benefit from important revisions to a Cancer Australia guide for health workers, released today.

Cancer Australia revised its widely-used Breast Cancer Handbook for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners in consultation with Indigenous health experts and leaders.

The Handbook provides information on breast cancer detection, diagnosis, treatment, and support. Following community and health worker feedback, the revised edition includes advice on supporting social and emotional wellbeing, palliative care, and breast cancer in men.

The Handbook has been a critical resource for many Indigenous health workers, helping to build their knowledge and skills to improve outcomes for breast cancer patients. It also contains information on breast cancer symptoms and encourages breast cancer screening.

Quotes attributable to Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health, Senator the Hon Malarndirri McCarthy:

“Social support and emotional care for those affected by breast cancer are just as important as physical care during treatment.

“This evidence-based Handbook gives our dedicated health workers the tools they need to provide culturally appropriate care and support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and expertly guide them through their cancer journey.”

Quotes attributable to Cancer Australia Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cancer Control Advisor, Professor Jacinta Elston:

“While breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, there are few resources providing evidence-based guidance to the Indigenous health professionals who support them.

“It is vitally important for Indigenous Australians affected by cancer to feel supported along their health care journey. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners are best placed to provide this support in their communities.” 

Quotes attributable to Indigenous breast cancer survivor, Dawn Ross, a 66-year-old Central Arrernte woman from Alice Springs and former Flinders University health academic:

“Being diagnosed with breast cancer at 43 and having to leave my husband and four young children behind to get a lumpectomy in Adelaide was one of the hardest experiences of my life.

“It’s really important for women with breast cancer to be able to access treatment close to home. This Handbook helps Indigenous health workers better support patients within their communities which could make a big difference to their breast cancer journey.

“For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island women, emotional and spiritual wellbeing is hugely important and in Central Australia they often turn to Ngangkari, or traditional healers, for medical help. The Handbook gives practical advice about how bush medicine can complement conventional treatments for breast cancer.”


Senator McCarthy - Jamal Ben Haddou 0417 387 775 or

Cancer Australia - Rosemarie Lentini 0438 209 833 or