Background: Women with gynecologic malignancies experience improved clinical outcomes when they are treated by gynecologic oncologists and in high-volume cancer centers. However, geography is a major barrier to high-volume care for patients. This qualitative study was undertaken to identify facilitators and barriers to patients traveling long distances for gynecologic cancer care.
Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 19 women with gynecologic malignancies traveling >50 miles for treatment at Wake Forest Comprehensive Cancer Center. Eight interviews included caregivers. Four interview domains focused on personal challenges and coping strategies related to accessing cancer care.
Results: Mean distance traveled for care was 87 miles (range: 54-218). Most participants reported that recommendations from physicians, friends, and family motivated travel. 10/19 participants were aware of closer sites for cancer care; 5 had unfavorable experiences elsewhere. Barriers to travel included time, cost, childcare, difficulty navigating, and physical discomfort. Social support was an important facilitator of travel for care; some patients utilized loaned money or vehicles. Participants reported significant energy expenditure scheduling travel, coordinating time off work, and arranging overnight stays near the cancer center. Suggestions for care improvement included travel vouchers, transportation assistance, signage and personnel to help with navigation, and appointments later in the day. Participants supported in-person oncologist outreach to rural areas and appointments via telemedicine; few preferred the current infrastructure.
Conclusion: Patients who travel long distances for gynecologic cancer care encounter significant burdens and rely heavily on social and financial support. Interventions should be developed and evaluated to reduce the burden of long-distance travel and develop efficient methods of outreach, including telemedicine.
Mujumdar, V.; Butler, Timberly R; and Shalowitz, David I, "A qualitative study on the impact of long-distance travel for gynecologic cancer care" (2021). Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology Faculty Papers. Paper 82.
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