Article Abstract

Is distance to chemotherapy an obstacle to adjuvant care among the N.C. Medicaid—enrolled colon cancer patients?

Authors: Alica S. Sparling, Eunyoung Song, Heidi D. Klepin, Kristie L. Foley


Background: Adjuvant chemotherapy for colon cancer has been linked to patient and provider characteristics but little is known about whether distance to chemotherapy providers constitutes an obstacle to chemotherapy.
Methods: A total of 1,184 Medicaid patients diagnosed with colon cancer in North Carolina in 1999–2002 comprised the sample. Data from the N.C. Central Cancer Registry, N.C. Medicaid Claims, American Hospital Directory and US Census were merged. Logistic regression models were used to estimate the association between chemotherapy receipt and the distance to nearest chemotherapy provider.
Results: Compared to the referent group of SEER-staged II (local) cancer patients living less than 2 miles from the nearest chemotherapy provider, the odds of receiving chemotherapy fell as the distance to the nearest provider increased. The odds ratio (OR) for those living ≥5 to <15 miles away was 0.13 [95% confidence intervals (CI), 0.04–0.39], and OR for those living ≥15 miles away was 0.06 (95% CI, 0.01–0.52). Patients diagnosed with regional, SEER-staged III (regional) cancer were less likely to receive chemotherapy if they lived in rural areas more than 20 miles away from the nearest provider (OR =0.08; 95% CI, 0.01–0.72). However, we found no evidence of association between chemotherapy receipt and distance to the nearest provider for regional cancer patients living in urban areas and those living in rural areas within 20 miles from the nearest chemotherapy provider.
Conclusions: Distance to provider may be an obstacle to chemotherapy for some groups of low-income colon cancer patients. Relieving travel burdens of rural patients living far from providers may help Medicaid increase guideline-consistent adjuvant care for regional cancer patients.