Purpose: Patients with cancer must overcome many psychological, social, and economic barriers to obtain needed treatment. Because of the need for repeated visits for cancer treatment on either an outpatient or an inpatient basis, one of the major issues that patients with cancer must confront is that of arranging for transportation to care.
Methods: This study compares the distance and mode of transportation to radiotherapy and chemotherapy and perceptions of transportation as a barrier to care among white, black, and Hispanic cancer patients receiving treatment from a consortium of cancer treatment facilities in Texas. A mail questionnaire was developed to assess the perceived barriers to cancer treatment for patients who had been diagnosed clinically with breast, colon, cervical, or prostate cancer, or lymphoma between 1989 and 1993. A total of 910 surveys were mailed to prospective participants. Of the surveys mailed, 593 were returned, yielding a 65.2% response rate. By race, the respondents included whites (42%), blacks (40%), Hispanics (15%), and Asian-Pacific Islanders (3%). Two respondents were 17 years of age; the remaining respondents were 18 years or older.
Results: This study shows that some patients may forgo needed treatment because of problems with transportation. This was perceived as an issue more for minority patients than for white patients. Black and Hispanic patients consistently reported that barriers such as distance, access to an automobile, and availability of someone to drive them to the treatment center were potential major problems. The distance to the facilities was farther for whites than for blacks and Hispanics. Patients generally had to travel farther for chemotherapy than for radiotherapy.
Clinical implications: Patients, particularly minorities, may opt to forgo needed care in the absence of available and affordable means of transportation to treatment facilities. These findings demonstrate the need for healthcare providers to be aware of the transportation problems that patients with cancer experience in obtaining treatment. Healthcare providers must work with patients, their families, and volunteer agencies in the community to facilitate transportation to cancer treatment services.