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Pediatric cancer care access in U.S. good overall, but not everywhere

Facilities equipped to handle cancer treatment in young people tend to occur in urban areas.

Because longer trips can mean shorter and less frequent visits, mistimed treatments and a higher financial burden, the authors of a paper in the journal JAMA Network Open wanted to know: How far do rural kids have to travel to get care?

The study of more than 90 million patients aged 0 to 21 years shows more than 83% live within an hour of the nearest pediatric oncologist.

American Indian or Alaska Native people, or rural residents, could face travel times above an hour and a half, however.

Socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods, especially in the South or Midwest, also had longer travel times. Studies have linked such neighborhoods to poorer survival ibn many childhood cancers.

The overall supply of pediatric cancer doctors was lowest in the mountain region, which includes Arizona and has only 3.3 oncologists per 100,000 young people.

The authors say establishing new rural pediatric cancer centers is likely impractical, but moving some care, testing and treatment capabilities to more local facilities could help lighten the load.

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Nicholas Gerbis was a senior field correspondent for KJZZ from 2016 to 2024.