Considerations for rural residents undergoing radiation therapy for cancer treatment
Barber, Alana Carlisle
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Cancer is a disease that will affect roughly one in three Americans in their lifetime. Of those who choose to undergo cancer treatment, approximately 60% will be treated with radiation therapy (XRT). In order to contain health care delivery costs, specialty medical centers that offer XRT are often centralized, making access to necessary treatment difficult for rural residents. Researchers have identified accessibility to services, required travel, being away from family and friends, locating accommodations during treatment, financial burdens, emotional stress, quality of life, and treatment options as burdens to this population. Research has been conducted in other areas of the world to identify commonalities amongst rural residents undergoing XRT but no such studies have been conducted within the United States. The purpose of this study was to identify considerations for rural residents who have been diagnosed with cancer and are undergoing external beam radiation therapy for treatment. A convenience sample of rural residents who were currently or had in the last year received external beam XRT for cancer treatment at a regional cancer treatment center in south central Montana were asked to participate in this study. Surveys were mailed anonymously to 49 persons meeting study criteria. Twenty one surveys containing demographic, multiple choice, and Likert scale questions focusing on travel, lifestyle changes and accommodation during XRT, the financial implications and psychosocial significance of XRT, and treatment decisions were completed and returned. Responses to the survey were entered into a database where descriptive statistics were used to summarize the data. The results suggest that travel and distance to services continues to be a challenge for most rural residents, that rural residents often alter lifestyles and believe costs are greater for them during XRT. Data also showed that participants did not base treatment decisions on cost or distance nor did they feel they were overly stressed or anxious during XRT. Implications for nursing include identification of variables associated with a rural lifestyle, increasing education for rural persons, and being aware of available resources to assist persons undergoing XRT for cancer treatment.