A number of rural Americans are worried about access to cancer treatment.
Frederick, Md (KM) The high cost of cancer treatment is on the minds of a lot of Americans. The National Cancer Opinion Survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Society of Clinical Oncology finds that 57% of respondents say they would be more concerned about paying for cancer treatment, compared to 54% who are more concerned about dying, or cancer-related pain and suffering.
“So this is a big financial burden. It’s a big emotional burden on families,” says Dr. Richard Schilsky, chief medical officer for the Society.
The survey found that among caregivers responsible for paying for cancer care for a family member, 74% say they’re concerned about affording it. Dr. Schilsky says many of them are taking drastic steps to pay for cancer treatments. “61% of the caregivers in the survey this year said they’ve started to work extra hours, postponed retirement, by taking extra jobs, or dipping into their 401K plans, simply to be sure that their family member with cancer has the financial resources to be able to receive the care that they need,” he says.
He suggests these care givers speak about their financial situation with their physicians, who may have some way for them to deal with the high cost of treatments by “modifying the treatment plan in some that still can produce a good outcome; limiting the number of tests that are performed; changing some of the supportive care regimens around,” he says.
Another concern raised in the survey comes from rural residents, and the access they have to cancer treatments. The survey found that 40% of rural Americans who have or have had cancer say there are not enough doctors in their communities who specialize in cancer treatment as opposed 22% for urban and suburban residents. They also say they typically spend an average of 50-minutes traveling one way to see their cancer physician, compared to non-rural residents, where the average is 30-minutes.
Dr. Schllsky says the medical profession is looking at some high tech ways to address this problem. “We’re very interested in exploring the potential of tele-medicine, whereby a local physician, who may or may not be a cancer expert, can get a consultation from a cancer specialist via the internet, and discuss a patient’s case and learn what the best options are for that person,” he says.
In addition, Dr. Schilsky says many oncologists are establishing outreach clinics in rural areas where a physician could visit these communities once a week. During the intervening time, a nurse practitioner would be on site all the time.
The survey was conducted in the US between July 10th, 2018, and August 10th, 2018 among 4,038 adults 18 and older, including 152 people who have cancer. There was also an oversample of 849 adults so there was a large enough sample to draw conclusions about the population of people with cancer, bringing the total number of adults with cancer who were surveyed to 1,001, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
By Kevin McManus