Many rural cancer patients forced to travel to get treatment - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Many rural cancer patients forced to travel to get treatment

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A recent study from the American Society of Clinical Oncology presents some troubling cancer stats.

The report shows the number of cancer cases is on the rise while access to care in rural areas is in decline.

KSFY News spoke with doctors and patients in our area about these concerns.

Some doctors believe cancer rates are on the rise because they're finding it faster.

And much of the care is so specialized that it just can't be done everywhere, forcing many people to travel for treatment.

For many in our area, seeing a cancer doctor requires a trip to Sioux Falls.

Cancer patient Myrna Huber said "three times a month, the first time I see the doctor in the morning, then it takes about until 4:30 or so before I'm done."

Huber travels from Freeman for her treatment.

"I don't mind, doing it because it's lung cancer, and it's contained to the left lung so I've been fighting it for a couple years," Huber said.

Wally Bren comes in from Pierre for his care.

"My family arranged... they did a lot of work but they found a place for me to stay so I could do the full six weeks all at once and not have to travel back and forth," Bren said.

Avera McKennan regional president, Dr. Dave Kapaska recognizes the importance of local healthcare.

"When you think about a person coming from 200 miles from here for a ten-minute recheck, to be told that everything's going well, and then drive three hours home, that's a very difficult day for some, depending upon how they're feeling," Kapaska said.

"If I had to travel back and forth weekly, that would be pretty hard to do," Bren said.

"I'm supposed to be doing that and I continue to fight," Huber said.

Dr. Kapaska told me the lifestyle is one of the greatest challenges of rural medicine.

A physician who works in a small office, may have a call time of 36 hours on and 12 hours off.

One solution for rural patients is the development of e-medicine, where some checkups can be done from hundreds of miles away.

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