Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 21, Issue 10, pp 2769–2775 | Cite as

Key factors impacting on diagnosis and treatment for vulvar cancer for Indigenous women: findings from Australia

  • Pam McGrathEmail author
  • Nicole Rawson
Original Article



To date, there has been limited research on the topic of vulvar cancer. This paper provides findings from a qualitative study conducted with Indigenous women in East Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia on the psychosocial impact of diagnosis and treatment for vulvar cancer. The insights from the study outlined in this paper not only make a contribution to deepening our understanding of the experience of vulvar cancer for Indigenous women, but provide practical recommendations to ensure effective and early engagement for diagnosis and treatment.


A qualitative research method was employed through in-depth, open-ended interviews. The participants of the study were a purposive sample of Indigenous women with the condition, health professionals, and Aboriginal health workers. There were a total of 40 participants; with twelve (n = 12) Indigenous women affected with the condition, fourteen (n = 14) Aboriginal Health Workers, ten (n = 10) nurses, three (n = 3) doctors, and one (n = 1) community member.


This paper addresses three key issues highlighted by the participants which include the fact that the private nature of the disease makes the condition ‘women’s business’, that there is a sense of shame associated with the condition, and that there is fear and worry generated by the seriousness of the condition.


The private nature of the disease and the sense of shame associated with the condition impact upon the diagnosis and treatment for many Indigenous women. In addition, the limitation of resources for health service delivery for East Arnhem Land exacerbates the problems faced by these communities. This paper puts forward suggestions to facilitate early diagnosis and treatment for women affected with the condition.


Indigenous health Vulvar cancer Fear Shame ‘Women’s business’ Health service delivery 



The authors would like to thank Leonora Addidi for her work as the interviewer for the project, Associate Professor John Condon and the genetics team [5], Dr Rebbekah McWhirter for administrative assistance, Mr Hamish Holewa for assistance with Quadrant, and Elaine Lawurrpa Maypilama for reviewing the article for the Indigenous Reference Group. The project is a research collaboration between Menzies School of Health Research and Griffith University and is funded by a National Health and Medical Research Council Project Grant (Id No: 1003817).

Conflict of Interest

The authors have no financial conflict of interest with regards the organisation, the National Health and Medical Research Council, that funded the research. The authors have full control over primary data and would make this available to the journal if required. However, due to the sensitive nature of the research project, the data was collected under strict requirements with regards confidentiality and any release of original data would have to be de-identified and would require the approval of the Griffith University Research Ethics and Integrity committee.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Population & Social Health ProgramGriffith Health InstituteLoganAustralia
  2. 2.Griffith UniversityBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.BrisbaneAustralia

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