Physical functioning and psychological morbidity among regional and rural cancer survivors: A report from a regional cancer centre

Aust J Rural Health. 2018 Jun;26(3):211-219. doi: 10.1111/ajr.12419. Epub 2018 May 25.


Objective: To identify factors associated with psychosocial, physical and practical difficulties of daily living and distress among cancer survivors from a regional area in Australia.

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Setting: Riverina region of southern New South Wales.

Participants: The sample included 134 patients who completed treatment for breast, colorectal, lung or cancer at the Riverina Cancer Care Centre.

Main outcome measures: Distress was assessed by the Distress Thermometer. Psychosocial, physical and practical difficulties of daily living were assessed by the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System questionnaires.

Results: A high proportion of cancer survivors had abnormal scores for physical function, sleep disturbance, satisfaction with role, fatigue and pain interference, with many also displaying abnormal scores for anxiety, depression and distress. Survivors living in rural areas and those who had undergone surgery had higher odds of having abnormal scores for sleep disturbance than their counterparts. Living without a partner increased the odds of anxiety and depression. Having advanced disease increased the odds of anxiety and pain. Colorectal cancer and higher education were associated with depression.

Conclusion: Monitoring for abnormal physical and psychosocial issues after cancer treatment is essential to maintain or improve psychosocial well-being during survivorship. When developing survivorship care plans for patients residing in regional centres, health professionals should consider availability of high-quality and accessible support services in regional areas of Australia.

Keywords: breast cancer; cancer; colorectal cancer; distress; lung cancer; prostate cancer; psychosocial.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / psychology
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • Cancer Survivors / psychology
  • Cancer Survivors / statistics & numerical data*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / psychology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / therapy
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Fatigue / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / psychology
  • Lung Neoplasms / therapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New South Wales / epidemiology
  • Pain / epidemiology
  • Recovery of Function
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / epidemiology
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome