A new task force has been created by the American Society of Clinical Oncology to address the disparities that patients with cancer treated in a rural setting face. The “Rural Cancer Care Task Force” will work to close the gap of cancer care between academic and rural settings and improve the outcomes of patients and survivors living in a rural setting.
A new task force has been created by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) to address the disparities that patients with cancer treated in a rural setting face. The "Rural Cancer Care Task Force" will work to close the gap of cancer care between academic and rural settings and improve the outcomes of patients and survivors living in a rural setting.1
The task force was announced on April 10 during ASCO’s State of Cancer Care in America event discussing issues that patients with cancer being treated in a rural community deal with in a set of panel discussions.
“We’ve made notable progress in improving outcomes for many people with cancer, but too many individuals, especially in rural communities, are left behind,” said ASCO’s CEO, Clifford A. Hudis, MD, in a statement. “With this new initiative, ASCO will identify ways to build upon existing efforts while also trying new approaches aimed at improving access to cancer care for patients no matter where they live.”
Approximately 19% of the US population lives in a rural area. These patients are often more likely to be diagnosed with a more advanced stage of cancer and have been shown to have higher mortality rates.2Additionally, rates of cancer diagnoses are decreasing at a slower pace in rural areas compared with urban communities. Yet only 7% of US oncologists practice in a rural setting, quantifying a large unmet need for patients with cancer in these areas.3
Additionally, patients in these communities usually do not have access to many resources that could help with education about cancer to encourage screening and with travel to cancer clinics for treatment, for example. Panelists during the meeting also addressed a number of behavioral risk factors that aggravate barriers to quality cancer care including cultural concerns and distrust to which physicians need to be sensitive.
“I grew up on a ranch in rural Wyoming, so I understand what it means for a patient to be 100 miles from the nearest hospital and the kind of burden that it places on patients, caregivers, providers, and the community as a whole," said Monica Bertagnolli, MD, president of ASCO, in a statement. “It’s a sad truth that where a patient lives often dictates their chances of surviving cancer.”
The Rural Cancer Care Task Force will work to identify ways to support rural oncology providers and patients and overcome barriers focused on 4 key areas: provider education and training, expanding access and improve understanding of the needs of the workforce, tele-oncology for remote access, and research, including the expansion of clinical trial eligibility to include more patients in rural settings.
The panelists during the event all concluded that the rural setting is fertile ground for innovation to find new ways to meet the needs of patients with cancer living in these communities, far away from cancer practices. ASCO’s new task force may help to lead this charge.