Barriers to Timely Completion of Radiation Therapy in Patients with Cervical Cancer in an Urban Tertiary Care Center

  • Cohen J
  • Harper A
  • Nichols E
  • et al.
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Background In 2017, there will be an estimated 12,820 women diagnosed with cervical cancer in the United States, causing an estimation of 4,210 deaths. Among U.S. women, there is a 33% greater incidence and 71% higher cervical cancer mortality in high-poverty counties when compared to low-income counties [1]. In those dispositioned to chemoradiation, treatment time of less than eight weeks is associated with compromised pelvic control. We sought to identify patient or disease characteristics and socioeconomic or psychosocial barriers that contribute to delays in treatment completion in order to formulate new policies to address these needs. Methods Cervical cancer patients treated with primary chemoradiation through the University of Maryland from 2011-2016 were identified retrospectively. Patients were placed in one of two groups: those who completed radiation treatment within 56 days, and those who failed to complete treatment within 56 days. Time to completion of radiation therapy was evaluated in relation to patient and disease variables. Results Forty-three patients with sufficient information for inclusion were identified. The median age was 51 years. Ten patients were stage I at diagnosis (23.3%), 16 were stage II (37.2%), 11 were stage III (25.5%) and six were stage IV (14%). Histopathology revealed squamous cell carcinoma in 37 patients (86%), adenocarcinoma in three patients (7%), mixed histology in two patients (4.7%), and neuroendocrine histology in one patient (2.3%). Twenty patients (46.5%) completed treatment within the recommended timeframe of 56 days while 23 patients (53.5%) did not. The most common reasons for a protracted treatment, or failure to complete the prescribed treatment were non-compliance/psychosocial factors (10 patients, 43.5%). Age, race, primary language, marital status, insurance, employment status, HIV status, mental health, substance abuse, tobacco use, stage at diagnosis, performance status at diagnosis, BMI (body mass index, kg/m2) at diagnosis, and income by zip code were not significantly associated with protracted treatment. The distance to treatment center was a significant factor (p=0.07); patients who lived closest to the treatment center were least likely to complete RT in the designated time frame. This is most likely due to the location of the treatment center, which is in the heart of an urban, low socioeconomic area. Conclusions More than half of all cervical cancer patients presenting to an urban tertiary care center do not complete chemoradiation therapy in the recommended timeframe. Underlying psychosocial factors are prominent. The role for patient navigation in this vulnerable population must be investigated.




Cohen, J., Harper, A., Nichols, E. M., Rao, G. G., Mohindra, P., & Roque, D. M. (2017). Barriers to Timely Completion of Radiation Therapy in Patients with Cervical Cancer in an Urban Tertiary Care Center. Cureus.

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