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Original Research

Geographical access to radiation therapy in North Queensland: a retrospective analysis of patient travel to radiation therapy before and after the opening of an additional radiotherapy facility

Submitted: 26 June 2015
Revised: 23 November 2015
Accepted: 19 February 2016
Published: 10 March 2016

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Author(s) : Sharma DK, Vangaveti VN, Larkins S.

Divya SharmaVenkat VangavetiSarah Larkins

Citation: Sharma DK, Vangaveti VN, Larkins S.  Geographical access to radiation therapy in North Queensland: a retrospective analysis of patient travel to radiation therapy before and after the opening of an additional radiotherapy facility. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2016; 16: 3640. Available: http://www.rrh.org.au/articles/subviewnew.asp?ArticleID=3640 (Accessed 19 October 2017)

ABSTRACT

Introduction:  Access to radiation therapy (RT) underlies optimal care for prostate and breast cancer patients. This study investigates the impact of opening a new RT clinic on distance and road travel time to RT, and overall utilisation for prostate and breast cancer patients over a 3-year period in North Queensland (NQ), Australia.
Methods:  The study used retrospective audit of two radiotherapy databases and a geographic information system to illustrate patient origins and distance to the RT clinic used over 3 years. Prostate and female breast cancer patients were selected from the radiation oncology databases of The Townsville Hospital (TTH) and Radiation Oncology Queensland (ROQ) Cairns between 1 July 2010 and 30 June 2013. Distance from a patient’s home origin to the RT facility was mapped using a geographic information system (ArcGIS software), and travel time (minutes) and road distance (km) determined by Google Maps road directions.
Results:  Overall number of prostate and breast cancer patients treated by RT in Cairns and Townsville clinics increased by 16% in 2011–2012 and by 29% in 2012–2013 from year 1 values. In 2010, 44% of the patients travelled 200–400 km to RT, which reduced to 21% in 2013. By 2013, with a second treatment facility, more than 70% of patients lived within 200 km of an RT facility (p<0.0001). Total median road travel time reduced annually from 201 minutes in 2010–2011 to 66 minutes in 2011–2012 and 56 minutes in 2012–2013 (p<0.0001), corresponding to a decrease in the median distance travelled to an RT facility.
Conclusions:  An additional RT facility in NQ has led to an increase in patients treated with RT for prostate and breast cancer and, on average, less travel distance and time to treatment, suggesting improvement in access to RT in NQ.

Key words: access, Australia, barrier, distance, geography, radiation therapy, radiotherapy.

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