Benefits of Cancer Treatments Close to Home


By on October 4, 2018
Benefits cancer treatments close to home

A cancer diagnosis is tough enough, but traveling for hours to receive care and treatment can pose a seemingly insurmountable additional challenge for the many patients who reside hours away from big city cancer centers. Is all of that travel necessary, though? What is the difference in treatment received at a rural community hospital compared to a major metropolitan area hospital? The answer may surprise you.

There is a misconception that cancer treatments in a large city are different than those treatments received at local community hospitals. The truth is most treatments can be done in either location. Many cancer facilities, urban and rural alike, follow the 98 percent rule, where rural facilities provide nearly all of a patient’s comprehensive cancer care, with the remaining percentage potentially requiring travel for highly-specialized services reserved for a very small population of patients. 

Rest and Reduced Stress

The quality of life during treatment for cancer can be severely impacted by rest and stress management. Those who are able to reduce stress and get the proper amount of rest have a better quality of life and experience better treatment outcomes. Imagine patients having to drive for hours for treatment, or even having to spend the night in a hotel? In addition to managing the stress from the diagnosis and the body managing physical stress from the treatment itself, patients are then adding hours of travel and battling traffic just to receive treatment. Once treatment is complete, patients must then battle traffic back to their rural homes, or might even have to stay in a hotel not being able to go home and rest in the comfort of their own space. This is not ideal. Additionally, stress can cause other health problems including high blood pressure, weakened immune system, digestive distress and other symptoms which only exacerbate the illness. Reducing stress and increasing the opportunity for quality rest are significant in the fight to rid the body of cancer.

Support of the Community

When patients are sent away for treatment, this often means sending them away from their community and support system. Family and friends who would come visit patients either in the hospital or at their homes while recovering from treatment are suddenly too far away to support the patient. This not only includes visiting time, but also cuts out those who might be able to stay with the patient and care for them while they are recovering from treatment or provide other daily life and emotional support that is essential to the patient’s mental wellbeing. 

Separating patients from their community and support system is another way to induce stress, but this type of stress is more psychological rather than physical. As supported in article on Cancer.gov, “evidence from experimental studies does suggest that psychological stress can affect a tumor’s ability to grow and spread. For example, some studies have shown that when mice bearing human tumors were kept confined or isolated from other mice—conditions that increase stress—their tumors were more likely to grow and spread (metastasize).” Isolating those with a cancer diagnosis in a far-away hospital for treatment with unfamiliar doctors without family and friends nearby to show their support can actually harm the patient. When most treatments can be successfully completed at the local community hospital, taking away the love and support of family and friends is unnecessary, and could even be harmful to the patient. 

About Jody – A Cancer Survivor

Jody Smith is a long-time resident of Sonora, Calif.—a sleepy town in a rural part of the state with a population of less than 5,000—is a recent cancer survivor who was confronted with the same choice as many other cancer patients in her situation: to seek treatment in the nearest large city (more than 50 minutes away), or to opt for treatment closer to home. With only three percent of oncologists practicing in rural areas like Sonora, patients like Jody frequently travel hundreds of miles to receive radiation and other cancer treatments. Over the past decade, more and more facilities have improved equipment and treatments similar or better than some of the larger city cancer centers. Extensive travel is something those dealing with a cancer diagnosis should not have to deal with, and centers like the Adventist Health Sonora Diana J. White Cancer Institute in Sonora, Calif.—where Jody sought treatment and eventually found remission—continue to challenge the belief that patients receive lower quality care away from the city.

In fact, as one of the nation’s largest rural health providers, Adventist Health’s cancer centers have proven to provide the same successful results as the larger urban centers, due to modern equipment, top doctors, nurses and personnel and progressive approaches to cancer regimens. 

While urban centers treat a larger volume of patients, when comparing percentages of success and remission rates—as well as overall positive shifts in this data—identical trends are shown. Jody Smith’s story is just one inspiring example of the many patients who are treated and see remission in a rural cancer centers. At no point in her treatment did Jody feel like she was receiving inferior care and she actually believes the sense of community built into her frequent visits to the Adventist Health cancer center located near her home was more therapeutic and actually led to a speedier recovery.

When facing a cancer diagnosis, patients have a lot to consider, including where to seek treatment. For those patients in a rural area, part of this decision is whether to receive treatment at their community hospital, or choose to commute to an urban area for treatment at a larger facility. When factoring the same level of high quality of treatment, along with the reduction of stress and being able to stay close to a community of family and friends, the community hospital treatment route is often in the patient’s best interest. While some types of cancers may require select trips to a specialist, most cancers can be treated at the properly-equipped local facility. Just like Jody, patients may even feel they receive better care because of the connection to the community and local setting.

About ADVENTIST HEALTH: Adventist Health is a faith-based, nonprofit integrated health system serving more than 80 communities on the West Coast and Hawaii. Founded on Seventh-day Adventist heritage and values, Adventist Health provides care in hospitals, clinics, home care agencies, hospice agencies and joint-venture retirement centers in both rural and urban communities. Our compassionate and talented team of 35,000 includes associates, medical staff physicians, allied health professionals and volunteers driven in pursuit of one mission: living God’s love by inspiring health, wholeness and hope. Together, we are transforming the American healthcare experience with an innovative, yet timeless, whole-person focus on physical, mental, spiritual and social healing. For more information, visit www.adventisthealth.org. 

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Benefits of Cancer Treatments Close to Home