KIMT News 3 – A new study is showing some disturbing trends when it comes to cancer care. It says that in rural areas, that care is lacking, and most likely won’t improve.
Researchers from the University of Iowa were part of the national study, which suggests there are not enough cancer specialists in rural areas.
Tracy Ingham was diagnosed with T-Cell cancer and given just two weeks to live. But thanks to intense treatment, he beat cancer more than 3 years ago.
Because of his unique circumstance, Ingham had to be treated at Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
“They couldn’t transfer my care to Mason City because the cancer I had was so rare there wasn’t anybody in Mason City who was qualified to deal with it,” Ingham explains.
Because he couldn’t be treated closer to home, his family took on the huge financial burden of having to travel 2-3 times per week for treatments.
Ingham wishes there would have been resources closer to his rural Mason City home.
“The care in Mayo, I don’t want to say it’s necessarily better, I just think they have a larger staff.”
According to a national study from the American Society of Clinical Oncology, rural areas are facing an increased number of cancer patients, but there are too few cancer specialists to help them.
“It does take resources, it takes money to reach out to these individuals and encourage them to come to our area. It takes money for us to hire them so they’ll stay in our area and become part of the family so to speak in our rural area,” says Linda Webner.
Webner is a two-time cancer survivor. She’s also on the Iowa American Cancer Society Leadership Council.
Although she says rural areas are struggling to fill these positions, she believes the north Iowa area is pretty fortunate when it comes to cancer care.
“We sit within a network of the North Iowa Mercy Health System and they have a Cancer Center and I think that’s real important for us because a lot of people are able to access it within 50-60 miles,” adds Webner.
Although Ingham wasn’t one of those people, he says the most important thing was getting the care he needed when he needed it.
“A difference of a couple weeks meant life or death. If I had waited two weeks, we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” says Ingham.
Webner says if you’re in a rural area, you need to remember to get regular cancer screenings.
She says a lot of time rural residents don’t get in to see doctors as much, which makes the screenings even more important.