Disparities in Access to Radiation Therapy Facilities Among American Indians/Alaska Natives and Hispanics in Washington State

Elsevier, International Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics, Volume 112, 1 February 2022
Greer M.D., Amiri S., Denney J.T., Amram O., Halasz L.M., Buchwald D.

Purpose: Racial and ethnic minorities in the state of Washington experience higher cancer mortality relative to whites. We sought to characterize differences in travel distance to radiation therapy (RT) facilities in Washington by race and ethnicity with a special focus on non-Hispanic American Indians and Alaska Natives as a contributor to limited access and cancer disparities. Methods and Materials: Geocoded mortality data from Washington Department of Health (2011-2018) were used to identify decedents with mortality related to all-causes, all cancers, and cancers likely requiring access to RT. This was determined from optimal RT usage estimates by diagnosis. RT facility locations were ascertained from the Directory of Radiation Therapy Centers and confirmed. Distance from decedents’ address listed on death certificates to nearest RT facility was calculated. Generalized mixed models were used for statistical analysis. Results: We identified 418,754 deaths; 109,134 were cancer-related, 60,973 likely required RT. Among decedents with cancers likely requiring RT, non-Hispanic American Indians and Alaska Natives decedents would have had to travel 1.16 times (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.09-1.24) farther from their residences to reach the nearest treatment facility compared with non-Hispanic whites. This association existed in metro counties but was more pronounced in nonmetro counties (1.39 times farther; 95% CI, 1.22-1.58). In addition, Hispanics would have had to travel 1.11 times farther (95% CI, 1.06-1.16) to reach the nearest facility compared with non-Hispanic whites, primarily due to differences in urban counties. Decedents in nonmetro counties lived on average 35 miles (SD = 29) from RT centers and non-Hispanic American Indians and Alaska Natives in nonmetro counties 53 miles (SD = 38). Compared with non-Hispanic white decedents, those who were non-Hispanic black, non-Hispanic Asian, and non-Hispanic Native Hawaiian decedents lived closer to RT facilities. Conclusions: We observed significant disparities in access to RT facilities in Washington, specifically for non-Hispanic American Indians and Alaska Natives and rural decedents. The findings call for initiatives to improve access to critical cancer treatment services for these underserved populations with known disparities in cancer deaths.