Part of Your Community. Part of Your Team.
Nearly 20% of the U.S. population lives in a rural area (1), but only 5.5% of oncologists practice in rural America. Even worse, a study by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in 2015 found that more than 70% of U.S. counties had no medical oncologists. Zip. Zero. Nada (2).
We are not okay with this. That’s why Illinois CancerCare has made an intentional commitment to serving rural communities with 12 facilities located throughout central and western Illinois.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have also made this a priority with both groups conducting research into treatment disparities based on access to care. The CDC found that cancer death rates are higher in rural area America than in urban areas. And while cancer deaths are decreasing in most locations, the reduction is occurring more slowly in rural communities (3). Let’s take a closer look at why this is happening among the 59 million Americans living in those rural areas.
1. Lack of Primary Care Providers (PCPs): In addition to a lower number of oncologists in rural areas, these communities often have fewer PCPs. When patients don’t have convenient access to doctors and nurse practitioners, they may neglect preventive care or ignore symptoms that could be a red flag for potential cancer. When cancer is diagnosed and treated at an early stage, it provides a greater chance for a positive outcome. This may explain why cancer deaths are decreasing more slowly in rural communities.
2. Financial Factors: Studies also show that rural areas often have higher levels of poverty, with many people uninsured or underinsured. Not only does this make it difficult to pay for healthcare, it also makes it hard to cover the expenses associated with getting that care. Even with insurance, traveling to medical facilities creates additional costs likes gas, babysitting and lost wages for the time patients (and their families) aren’t at work or tending their farm.
3. Education Levels: Another critical element in the fight against cancer is having access to accurate medical information and the ability to understand it. In addition to the lack of healthcare providers and increased poverty, some individuals in rural populations haven’t attained higher education levels that enable them to stay on top of current healthcare information. There are many myths about cancer, so it’s important for people to be aware of accurate facts regarding causes, symptoms and screening recommendations (mammograms, colonoscopies, skin cancer checks, etc.).
4. Lack of Specialized Expertise: Because some cancers are rare, it can be difficult for a general practitioner to recognize symptoms that may indicate a possible cancer diagnosis. In addition, when rural patients are diagnosed with an uncommon cancer, they’ll probably have to travel farther for treatment by a specialized oncologist. This can be exhausting for both the patient and their caregiver.
5. Emotional Elements: When fighting cancer, it’s important for patients to maintain their overall health and well-being. Those who make extensive commutes for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up can get exhausted, which can make them more susceptible to illness and discouragement.
Leaders in Community Care
At Illinois CancerCare, we’ve always believed that patients deserve convenient access to care. Because of that, we were one of the first oncology and hematology practices to establish state-of-the-art cancer treatment centers in local communities.
In addition to our primary location in Peoria, we also care for patients in Bloomington, Canton, Carthage, Eureka, Galesburg, Kewanee, Macomb, Ottawa, Pekin, Peru and Princeton. Each facility offers different services, so please explore our website or call us at either (309) 243-3000 or toll-free at (866) 662-6564 to learn more.
With 12 locations staffed by our experienced physicians and nurses, we are proud to deliver care right where you need it. After all, there’s no place like home!