Long Distance to Care Can Mean Worse Outcomes for Young Cancer Patients

MONDAY, July 19, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Teens and young adults with cancer who live in rural areas or far from the hospital where they were diagnosed are more likely to have advanced cancer and more likely to die, new research shows.

“A number of studies have indicated that place of residence can influence cancer survival; however, few studies have specifically focused on geographic factors and outcomes in adolescents and young adults with cancer,” said lead study author Kimberly Johnson, a cancer researcher at Washington University in St. Louis.

For the study, Johnson and her colleagues analyzed nationwide data for nearly 180,000 U.S. patients between 15 and 39 years of age whose cancer was diagnosed between 2010 and 2014.

The researchers classified the distance from the patient’s home to the hospital where their cancer was diagnosed as short (less than 12.5 miles), intermediate (12.5 to 50 miles) or long (50+ miles).

The risk of a late-stage diagnosis was 1.16 times higher for those in rural counties than those in metro areas, and 1.2 times greater for those who lived a long distance from the hospital compared to those a short distance away, the investigators found.

The death rate was 1.17 times higher for those in rural counties, and 1.30 times greater for those a long distance from the hospital, according to the report published recently in the journal Cancer.

“Hopefully, this research will draw attention to geographic disparities in [teen and young adult] cancer survival,” Johnson said in a university news release. “It will be important to conduct further research to understand the mechanisms for these findings and to develop interventions to address these disparities.”

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about cancer in teens.

SOURCE: Washington University in St. Louis, news release, July 14, 2021