Journal of Cancer Survivorship

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 330–341 | Cite as

Cancer survivorship services for indigenous peoples: where we stand, where to improve? A systematic review

  • Bridget M. CavanaghEmail author
  • Claire E. Wakefield
  • Jordana K. McLoone
  • Gail Garvey
  • Richard J. Cohn



There are few support programs with evidence-based practices which address the needs of cancer survivors from indigenous populations. This systematic review analysed the experiences and current support services for cancer survivors from indigenous populations following the cessation of cancer treatment.


The data sourced for this article was identified from a systematic search of five databases (MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process, PyscINFO, CINAHL, and EMBASE). Studies were selected if they described the experiences of indigenous cancer survivors, their families, and/or clinicians primarily responsible for their care. In total 208 unique abstracts were screened, from which 17 studies were identified as having fulfilled all selection criteria.


Of the 17 articles reviewed, 12 described qualitative data and 5 provided quantitative data. Common themes identified included the importance of family support throughout the survivorship period, the negative effect of community stigmatization, fatalistic attitudes towards cancer, and the importance of spirituality in coping with, and understanding, the cancer experience. Potential barriers to accessing care included distance and difficulties revisiting the survivor’s cancer experience due to an associated fear of cancer recurrence.


Indigenous cancer survivors would benefit from survivorship programs more specifically tailored to their individual circumstances, such as personalized spiritual care, facilitation of increased involvement of family members, and connection to other indigenous cancer survivors.

Implications for Cancer Survivors

The results from this review indicate that there is a need for survivorship care to be shaped specifically for the needs of indigenous cancer survivors.


Indigenous Cancer Oncology Survivorship 



The authors would also like to acknowledge Lucy Hanlon for contribution to the article review and selection process and Brittany McGill for contribution to editing, and review, of this paper.

Financial disclosure

The authors have no relevant financial relationships to disclose.

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.


The Behavioural Sciences Unit is supported by the Kids with Cancer Foundation. Claire Wakefield is supported by a Career Development Fellowship from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (APP1067501) and an Early Career Development Fellowship form the Cancer Institute of NSW (ID 11/ECF/3-43). The Behavioural Sciences Unit is supported by the Kids with Cancer Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bridget M. Cavanagh
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Claire E. Wakefield
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jordana K. McLoone
    • 1
    • 2
  • Gail Garvey
    • 3
  • Richard J. Cohn
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Discipline of Paediatrics, School of Women’s and Children’s Health, UNSW MedicineUniversity of New South WalesKensingtonAustralia
  2. 2.Kids Cancer CentreSydney Children’s HospitalRandwickAustralia
  3. 3.Menzies School of Health Research, Charles Darwin UniversityDarwin, Northern TerritoryAustralia

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