Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Alarming cancer disparities across rural Appalachia, study finds

Rural Appalachia has gone from having the lowest cancer death rates in the United States to the highest according to a study by The University of Virginia. Calling the disparities "pervasive" researchers are urging a "systematic effort to reduce the burden of cancer for rural Appalachia," because the rest of the country appears to be making major strides in the battle against cancer, writes CBS19 Charolettesville, Virginia.

The study says "it's part of a growing cancer crisis in the region, with disturbing trends in all sectors of cancer care, from screening to diagnosis to treatment."

Nengliang Yao, of the UVA School of Medicine, told CBS19: "Look at the war on poverty that President Johnson declared decades ago . . . We lost the war on poverty, and we're not doing much to battle the health care disparities in rural Appalachia. Because we can see it from our results: It's getting worse."

Decades of data obtained from the National Center for Health Statistics were used in the study, revealing disturbing trends: "Between 1969 and 2011, cancer incidence declined in every region of the country except rural Appalachia, where it increased. During that time, rural Appalachia went from having the lowest cancer death rate in the country to the highest. Cancer mortality rates during 2007-11 were 14.7 percent higher in the rural Appalachian counties in Virginia than in non-Appalachian urban areas in the rest of the country."

"In the rural Appalachian areas of Kentucky, mortality rates were 36 percent higher. Rural residents in every other state in the Appalachian region, except for Maryland, had higher mortality rates than their urban counterparts. Breast cancer is less likely to be caught early in rural Appalachia than elsewhere. People in Appalachia are more likely to die within three to five years of their cancer diagnoses than people in urban areas outside Appalachia."

CBS19 writes that economic, geographic and political challenges all stand in the way of quality cancer care in the Appalachian region, adding that access to health care providers, lower population numbers, significant distances and travel times and people with limited transportation options face major obstacles.

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