Geographic access to radiation therapy facilities and disparities of early-stage breast cancer treatment.


Few studies of breast cancer treatment have focused on the Northern Plains of the United States, an area with a high mastectomy rate. This study examined the association between geographic access to radiation therapy facilities and receipt of breast cancer treatments among early-stage breast cancer patients in South Dakota. Based on 4,209 early-stage breast cancer patients diagnosed between 2001 and 2012 in South Dakota, the study measured geographic proximity to radiation therapy facilities using the shortest travel time for patients to the closest radiation therapy facility. Two-level logistic regression models were used to estimate for early stage cases i) the odds of mastectomy versus breast conserving surgery (BCS); ii) the odds of not receiving radiation therapy after BCS versus receiving follow-up radiation therapy. Covariates included race/ethnicity, age at diagnosis, tumour grade, tumour sequence, year of diagnosis, census tract-level poverty rate and urban/rural residence. The spatial scan statistic method was used to identify geographic areas with significantly higher likelihood of experiencing mastectomy. The study found that geographic accessibility to radiation therapy facilities was negatively associated with the likelihood of receiving mastectomy after adjustment for other covariates, but not associated with radiation therapy use among patients receiving BCS. Compared with patients travelling less than 30 minutes to a radiation therapy facility, patients travelling more than 90 minutes were about 1.5 times more likely to receive mastectomy (odds ratio, 1.51; 95% confidence interval, 1.08-2.11) and patients travelling more than 120 minutes were 1.7 times more likely to receive mastectomy (odds ratio, 1.70; 95% confidence interval, 1.19-2.42). The study also identified a statistically significant cluster of patients receiving mastectomy who were located in south-eastern South Dakota, after adjustment for other factors. Because geographic proximity to treatment facilities plays an important role on the treatment for early-stage breast cancer patients, this study has important implications for developing targeted intervention to reduce disparities in breast cancer treatment in South Dakota.

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