Disparities in Access to Radiation Therapy Facilities Exist in Washington State

Non-Hispanic American Indians and Alaska Natives had significantly disparate access to radiation therapy (RT) facilities in Washington state, according to a recent analysis.


Researchers used geocoded data from the Washington Department of Health to identify decedents with mortality related to all-causes, all cancers, and cancers likely to require RT. They then looked at RT facility locations in relation to decedents addresses listed on death certificates. According to the study, American Indian and Alaskan Native people make up almost 2% of the population of Washington.


Of the more than 400,000 deaths, 108,134 were cancer-related and 60,973 likely required RT. Among decedents with cancers that likely required RT, non-Hispanic American Indians and Alaska Natives likely would have had to travel more than 1.5 times farther to reach the nearest treatment facility compared with non-Hispanic Whites.


This association existed in metro and no-metro countries but was more pronounced in nonmetro counties, where these populations had to travel 1.39 times farther. This result underscores “the disparities experienced by non-Hispanic American Indians and Alaskan Natives in access to RT and presumably other specialty care, regardless of population density.”


Decedents in nonmetro countries had to travel an average of 35 miles to RT centers; non-Hispanic American Indians and Alaska Natives had to travel an average of 53 miles.


“The present findings call for effective initiatives to mitigate access disparities through creative local and legislative measures,” the researchers wrote.