Objective: To describe travel burden and travel-related financial burden experienced by cancer patients over the first year after diagnosis. Design, setting, participants: Population-based longitudinal cohort of recent adult cancer patients diagnosed with the eight most incident cancers recruited from New South Wales and Victorian Cancer Registries. Self-report survey data were collected at 6 and 12 months after diagnosis from 1410 participants (city: n = 890; regional/remote: n = 520). Main outcome measures: Travel time to cancer treatment, living away from home for treatment, travel-related treatment decisions, extent of financial issues, unmet need for financial help. Results: During the first 12 months after diagnosis, outer regional/remote residents had the greatest travel burden; 61% (n = 79) travelled at least 2 hours one way to receive treatment, and 49% (n = 66) lived away from home to receive treatment. Strongest associates of travel burden were living in regional/remote areas (odds ratio (OR) = 18.9–135.7), having received surgery (OR = 6.7) or radiotherapy (OR = 3.6). Between 6 and 12 months after diagnosis, 2% (n = 24) of patients declined cancer treatment because of the time it would take to get to treatment. Patients who travelled more than 2 hours or lived away for treatment reported significantly greater financial difficulties (38%; 40%) than those who did not (12%; 14%), even after adjusting for covariates. Conclusions: Travel burden is greatest for rural patients, and is associated with greater financial burden. Appropriate and adequate provision of travel and accommodation assistance schemes remains paramount to achieving equitable delivery of cancer services.
Australian Journal of Rural Health Vol. 19, Issue 6, p. 298-305