Faster treatment but poorer survival rates—rural cancer riddle revealed

October 6, 2017, University of Aberdeen
Faster treatment but poorer survival rates—rural cancer riddle revealed
People with cancer who live further from hospital receive treatment faster but are more likely to die within a year according to University of Aberdeen research. Credit: University of Aberdeen

People with cancer who live more than an hour from their nearest major hospital are diagnosed and treated faster than those who live closer but are still more likely to die within a year of diagnosis, according to new research.

Researchers from the University of Aberdeen who carried out the study have described the findings, published in the British Journal of Cancer, as a 'cancer geography paradox."

It is understood to be the first study anywhere to examine the impact of burden of travel on the cancer diagnostic process.

The team analysed data from more than 12,000 patients from across north-east Scotland, northern Scotland and the Northern Isles, looking at their travel to the nearest major hospital, the time taken for to begin and their survival rates within a year.

They found those who lived in the Northern Isles were 32 percent more likely to start treatment within 62 days of their GP's referral, compared to those living within 15 minutes of their treatment centre. Those from the mainland living more than an hour's travel from their cancer treatment centre were 42 percent more likely to start treatment within 62 days of their GP referral than those who lived within 15 minutes away.

They also found that people living in the Northern Isles were 72 percent more likely to have their and treatment started on the same or next day compared to those who lived within 15 minutes of their cancer treatment centres.

However, the study revealed faster treatment did not translate into better , with those living more than an hour away or in the islands being significantly more likely to die in the first year after treatment than those living closer by.

The researchers say the findings suggest more must be done to analyse how people with cancer interact with specialist services after they have been diagnosed.

"These contradictory findings on time to diagnosis and mortality are perplexing to say the least," says Dr Peter Murchie, clinical consultant at the University of Aberdeen, who led the study.

"The findings suggest that what happens to patients after their diagnosis may be much more important. It could be that living in rural areas where you have to travel further to receive treatment might limit treatment choices once a diagnosis has been made. There is evidence that when faced with two treatment options, patients might weigh the costs in terms of time, expense and inconvenience of travel against the perceived benefits, for example, choosing surgery over chemotherapy to limit time in hospital.

"Lengthy or difficult to a centre or hospital could also result in less limit engagement with post-primary treatment follow-up, with consequent implications for the effective management of treatment effects and the identification of other follow-up needs. Further research is essential to understand the true interplay of these and other factors."

"Future researchers should confirm these findings in the wider UK and beyond, but the key challenge now is to explain what the factors are that contribute to this apparent disconnect between treatment time and outcomes for patients."

Explore further: Women four times less likely to have surgery if breast cancer diagnosed as an emergency

Related Stories

Women four times less likely to have surgery if breast cancer diagnosed as an emergency

June 8, 2015
Breast cancer patients are four times less likely to have potentially lifesaving surgery if diagnosed as an emergency rather than through an urgent GP referral, according to a new data published today (Monday).

Pancreatic cancer patients may live longer by traveling to academic hospital for operation

May 1, 2017
New study findings link traveling to an academic medical center for surgical removal of pancreatic or thyroid cancer with higher quality surgical care for both cancers, and longer survival for patients with pancreatic cancer ...

Where women live influences decisions about breast cancer treatment

January 21, 2016
New joint research has found that the distance to cancer services may be influencing the treatment intentions of regional Queensland women diagnosed with breast cancer.

Travel time can hamper follow-up chemo, study says

August 25, 2015
(HealthDay)—The farther they have to travel, the less likely cancer patients are to receive follow-up chemotherapy after surgery, a new study finds.

'Unacceptable' cancer treatment waiting times condemned as Scottish targets missed again

March 30, 2017
Waiting times for cancer patients in Scotland have been described as 'unacceptable' after new figures show that a key target has been missed for the fourth year in a row.

Breast cancer diagnosed at later stage in rural patients

October 29, 2013
(HealthDay)—Breast cancer patients who live farther away from comprehensive cancer centers are more likely to be diagnosed with later-stage disease, according to new research.

Recommended for you

Daily low-dose aspirin may be weapon against ovarian cancer

July 20, 2018
(HealthDay)— One low-dose aspirin a day could help women avoid ovarian cancer or boost their survival should it develop, two new studies suggest.

Discovery of kidney cancer driver could lead to new treatment strategy

July 19, 2018
University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center scientists have uncovered a potential therapeutic target for kidney cancers that have a common genetic change. Scientists have known this genetic change ...

High fruit and vegetable consumption may reduce risk of breast cancer, especially aggressive tumors

July 19, 2018
Women who eat a high amount of fruits and vegetables each day may have a lower risk of breast cancer, especially of aggressive tumors, than those who eat fewer fruits and vegetables, according to a new study led by researchers ...

Sunscreen reduces melanoma risk by 40 per cent in young people

July 19, 2018
A world-first study led by University of Sydney has found that Australians aged 18-40 years who were regular users of sunscreen in childhood reduced their risk of developing melanoma by 40 percent, compared to those who rarely ...

Analysis of prostate tumors reveals clues to cancer's aggressiveness

July 19, 2018
Using genetic sequencing, scientists have revealed the complete DNA makeup of more than 100 aggressive prostate tumors, pinpointing important genetic errors these deadly tumors have in common. The study lays the foundation ...

Complementary medicine for cancer can decrease survival

July 19, 2018
People who received complementary therapy for curable cancers were more likely to refuse at least one component of their conventional cancer treatment, and were more likely to die as a result, according to researchers from ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.