Native American cancer patients are often at a disadvantage due to distance

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Native American cancer patients are often at a disadvantage when it comes to receiving treatment due to where they live.

Washington State University researchers have released a new study that examines the barriers these patients face.

Solmaz Amiri of the WSU College of Medicine says Native American and Alaska Native patients who live on rural reservations often have to travel significant distances to get to treatment centers for chemo or radiation therapy.

“When people are recommended to have this type of treatment, they have to go to a facility for up to eight weeks and the treatments are given once or twice a day. So there is a burden to access these treatment facilities and complete the treatment,” she said.

Whereas, Amiri says, people from other ethnic groups are more likely to live in urban areas closer to specialist treatment. She says Indigenous patients often incur far greater expenses for accommodation, food and other things they need to live away from home for weeks at a time. Although Amiri’s research has focused on Indigenous patients, this sometimes applies to non-Indigenous rural residents as well.

Sometimes, she says, patients choose more invasive surgeries instead that speed up the treatment process and allow them to go home to recover.

To remedy the problem, she proposes that cancer centers develop alternatives for rural patients, such as mobile treatment units or offer them financial subsidies “such as free or reduced cost transport or other services or perhaps accommodation benefits,” she said.

Amiri’s research has been published in the journal Value in Health.

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