BACKGROUND: Rurality and distance from cancer treatment centres have been shown to negatively impact cancer outcomes, but the mechanisms remain obscure.
METHODS: We analysed the impact of travel time to key healthcare facilities and mainland/island residency on the cancer diagnostic pathway (treatment within 62 days of referral, and within 31 days of diagnosis) and 1-year mortality using a data-linkage study with 12 339 patients.
RESULTS: After controlling for important confounders, mainland patients with more than 60 min of travelling time to their cancer treatment centre ((OR 1.42; 95% CI 1.25-1.61) and island dwellers (OR 1.32; 95% CI 1.09-1.59) were more likely to commence cancer treatment within 62 days of general practitioner (GP) referral and within 31 days of their cancer diagnosis compared with those living within 15 min. Island-dweller patients were more likely to have their diagnosis and treatment started on the same or next day (OR 1.72; 95% CI 1.31-2.25). Increased travelling time to a cancer treatment centre was associated with increased mortality to 1 year (30-59 min (HR 1.21; 95% CI 1.05-1.41), >60 min (HR 1.18; 95% CI 1.03-1.36), island dweller (HR 1.17; 95% CI 0.97-1.41).
CONCLUSIONS: Island dwelling and greater mainland travel burden was associated with more rapid cancer diagnosis and treatment following GP referral even after adjustment for advanced disease; however, these patients also experienced a survival disadvantage compared with those living nearer. Cancer services may need to be better configured to suit the different needs of dispersed populations.British Journal of Cancer advance online publication, 22 June 2017; doi:10.1038/bjc.2017.180 www.bjcancer.com.
- Journal Article