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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Iowa Researchers Look at Challenges of Cancer Care in Rural U.S.

According to a recent study led by Dr. Mary Charlton, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Iowa College of Public Health,  rural cancer patients face many challenges in receiving care, including limited availability of cancer treatments and cancer support providers (oncologists, social workers, mental healthcare providers, palliative care specialists, etc.), transportation barriers, financial issues, and limited access to clinical trials.

[Photo: Dr. Mary Charlton]

Among the largest challenges facing rural cancer patients is the distance that many have to travel in order to receive treatment. Because of the relative lack of oncologists and treatment facilities in rural areas, the study noted that patients in small rural towns typically travelled more than three times longer to receive treatment than those living in urban areas.

“Cancer isn’t just one surgery and you’re done,” Dr. Charlton said. “Radiation and chemo require multiple visits. There are some instances where you can’t get those two treatments in the same city, but patients may need them in the same day and are forced to travel great distances.”

Dr. Charlton also stated that often times rural cancer patients lack a good social support network along with access to public transportation and social workers.

The study, published in the September issue of Oncology, notes that there are several innovative products and programs that are designed the help patients overcome many of these challenges, including rural outreach clinics and increased use of telemedicine and teleoncology services.

The article is co-authored by Dr. Charlton, Dr. Jennifer Schlitching, Dr. Marcia Ward, and Catherine Chioreso from the UI College of Public Health, and Dr. Praveen Vikas of the University of Iowa Department of Internal Medicine.

The full article is available here: