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Study links colorectal cancer mortality rates and surgery center locations

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death in the state. Researchers from Penn State College of Medicine and Penn State Cancer Institute conducted a study to examine the association between the number of colorectal cancer deaths and the location of ambulatory surgery centers across Pennsylvania.

Ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) are medical facilities that perform same-day surgeries and provide diagnostic procedures. Pennsylvania is home to 391 ASCs, of which 106 perform cancer screenings including colonoscopies and endoscopies.

Nathaniel Geyer, a research support assistant for the Department of Public Health Sciences, examined the spatial relationship between colorectal cancer deaths and ambulatory surgery centers and uncovered disparities between what patients needed and what services were accessible across Pennsylvania. Researchers found that rural communities needed improved access to potentially life-saving procedures, such as endoscopies.

Analyzing statewide data from 2013 to 2017, investigators discovered that more colorectal cancer deaths were reported in rural northern counties, a region with few ASCs. Researchers found the highest concentration of ASCs across four southeastern counties.

Results from this study may help shape statewide efforts to improve access to care and information, as well as address cancer prevention efforts and screenings. Finding innovative ways to reach patients living in rural areas may reduce cancer deaths. Researchers urge health care providers to explore alternative ways to provide treatment, such as through remote technologies or home-based services.

Jennifer Moss, Ming Wang and Eugene Lengerich of Penn State Cancer Institute and Penn State College of Medicine contributed to this study.

Read the full study in the journal Public Health

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