Purpose: Compared with the rest of the United States, the population of Appalachia has lower education levels, higher rates of poverty, and limited access to health care. The presence of disparities in radiation therapy (RT) access for Appalachian patients with cancer has rarely been examined.
Methods and materials: The National Cancer Institute initiatives toward addressing disparities in treatment access for rural populations were examined. An extensive literature search was undertaken for studies investigating RT access disparities in Appalachian patients, beginning with the most common cancers in these patients (lung, colorectal, and cervical).
Results: Although the literature investigating RT access disparities in Appalachia is relatively sparse, studies examining lung, colorectal, cervical, prostate, head and neck, breast, and esophageal cancer, as well as lymphoma, indicate an unfortunate commonality in barriers to optimal RT access for Appalachian patients with cancer. These barriers are predominantly socioeconomic in nature (low income and lack of private insurance) but are exacerbated by paucities in both the number and quality of radiation centers that are accessible to this patient population.
Conclusions: Regardless of organ system, there are significant barriers for Appalachian patients with cancer to receive RT. Such diminished access is alarming and warrants resources devoted to addressing these disparities, which often go overlooked because of the assumption that the overall wealth of the United States is tangibly applicable to all of its citizens. Without intelligently targeted investments of time and finances in this arena, there is great risk of exacerbating rather than alleviating the already heavy burden facing Appalachian patients with cancer.
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
McClelland, Shearwood III; Kaleem, Tasneem; Bernard, Mark E.; Ahmed, Hiba Z.; Sio, Terence T.; and Miller, Robert C., "The Pervasive Crisis of Diminishing Radiation Therapy Access for Vulnerable Populations in the United States—Part 4: Appalachian Patients" (2018). Radiation Medicine Faculty Publications. 17.