Geography alone cannot predict your risk of cancer, but it can impact prevention, diagnosis, and treatment opportunities. Rural areas in the United States have different health disparities compared to urban areas that can affect cancer incidence and mortality. For example, poverty rates in rural counties exceed those in urban counties by 58%, which contributes to individuals being more dependent on Medicare or Medicaid or not having any form of health insurance. An American Cancer Society report from 2019 stated that underinsured patients diagnosed with Stage I colon cancer have a lower chance of survival than Stage II colon cancer patients with private insurance (American Cancer Society, 2019).
Lower education levels found in rural counties also contribute to poverty and are a barrier to individuals and families making healthy decisions such as engaging in behaviors that prevent cancer. Rural counties have approximately half as many physicians and large shortages of nurses, therapists and nutritionists per capita as compared to metro counties. Rural areas also have less access to health care services such as cancer screening and transportation to health care facilities.
The crude death rate for cancer-related deaths is higher in rural areas than urban areas. According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cancer deaths in rural areas decreased at a slower pace, increasing the differences between rural and urban areas. This report also indicated that overall cancer incidence rates were higher in rural areas for preventable cancers such as colon cancer (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017 ).
Of the 254 counties in Georgia, 108 are rural counties. UHRU is helping reduce the impact of colon cancer in rural Georgia by providing federally qualified health centers with resources to improve patient screening rates. Make a difference with UHRU by talking to your doctor about getting screened for colon cancer.
To learn more about the Georgia Colon Cancer Prevention Project, visit www.uhru.org.
American Cancer Society. (2019). Cancer Treatment & Survivorship: Facts and Figures 2019-2021. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/research/cancer-facts-and-statistics/cancer-treatment-and-survivorship-facts-and-figures/cancer-treatment-and-survivorship-facts-and-figures-2019-2021.pdf
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017 ). New CDC Report Shows Death from Cancer Higher in Rural America [Press release]. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2017/p0706-rural-cancer-deaths.html