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Original Research

Socioeconomic disparities in head and neck cancer patientsí access to cancer treatment centers

Submitted: 17 September 2016
Revised: 18 February 2017
Accepted: 14 March 2017
Published: 31 August 2017

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Author(s) : Walker B, Schuurman N, Auluck A, Lear SA, Rosin M.

Ajit Auluck

Citation: Walker B, Schuurman N, Auluck A, Lear SA, Rosin M.  Socioeconomic disparities in head and neck cancer patientsí access to cancer treatment centers. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2017; 17: 4210. Available: (Accessed 23 October 2017)


Introduction:††Both socioeconomic status and travel time to cancer treatment have been associated with treatment choice and patient outcomes. An improved understanding of the relationship between these two dimensions of access may enable cancer control experts to better target patients with poor access, particularly in isolated suburban and rural communities.
Methods:††Using geographical information systems, head and neck cancer patients across British Columbia, Canada from 1981 to 2009, were mapped and their travel times to the nearest treatment center at their time of diagnosis were modelled. Patientsí travel times were analysed by urban, suburban, and rural neighborhood types and an index of multiple socioeconomic deprivation was used to assess the role of socioeconomic status in patientsí spatial access.
Results:††Significant associations between socioeconomic deprivation and spatial access to treatment were identified, with the most deprived quintiles of patients experiencing nearly twice the travel time as the least deprived quintile. The sharpest disparities were observed among the most deprived patient populations in suburban and rural areas. However, the establishment of new treatment centers has decreased overall travel times by 28% in recent decades.
Conclusions:††Residence in a neighborhood with high socioeconomic deprivation is strongly associated with head and neck cancer patientsí spatial access to cancer treatment centers. Patients residing in the most socioeconomically deprived neighborhoods consistently have longer travel times in urban, suburban, and rural communities in the study area.

Key words: cancer treatment, socioeconomic status, deprivation, head and neck cancers, spatial access, geographic information systems, Canada.

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