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Relocating for Cancer Care

If you and your loved one are considering relocating for cancer care, it’s a good idea to take some initial steps that can help identify medical centers for treatment and financial resources to help defray the costs of travel and living away from home while seeking medical treatment.

Rationale for relocating for cancer care

Head and neck cancers are relatively rare in the U.S., and the likelihood of health care specialists in rural areas having experience with this type of cancer is low.1Marur S, Forastiere AA. Head and neck cancer: changing epidemiology, diagnosis, and treatment. Mayo Clin Proc. 2008 Apr;83(4):489-501. If your loved one lives in a rural area or in an area where most clinicians have little experience with head and neck cancer, then you may ask if your loved one wants to consider relocating for medical care. Patient outcomes, particularly survival rates, improve by 19 to 60 percent in hospitals that treat a high number of cases of head and neck cancer.2Hillner BE, Smith TJ, Desch CE. Hospital and physician volume or specialization and outcomes in cancer treatment: importance in quality of cancer care. J Clin Oncol. 2000 Jun;18(11):2327-40.

If your loved one is willing to consider relocating for medical care, then you may want to look for an NCI-designated hospital that includes medical specialists with expertise in head and neck cancer.3National Cancer Institute Website. Accessed at http://www.cancer.gov/ on February 19, 2013.

http://vimeo.com/64108654

Financial resources

If you and your loved one relocate for treatment, there will likely be costs associated with hotels and missing work. In a survey of people with head and neck cancer, approximately 50 percent of the respondents were very worried about their finances.You may want to investigate options to help with the finances before presenting the idea of relocating for cancer care.

You may want to research options for taking time off from work. Determine whether you and/or your patient qualifies for benefits under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).4Chaturvedi SK, Shenoy A, Prasad KM, Senthilnathan SM, Premlatha BS. Concerns, coping and quality of life in head and neck cancer patients. Support Care Cancer.1996 May;4(3):186-90. If you and/or your loved one qualifies, then 12 weeks of leave to receive treatment can be taken.4Chaturvedi SK, Shenoy A, Prasad KM, Senthilnathan SM, Premlatha BS. Concerns, coping and quality of life in head and neck cancer patients. Support Care Cancer.1996 May;4(3):186-90. Depending on the circumstances, leave time under FMLA may be paid or unpaid. If health insurance is provided through work, your loved one can keep this benefit during the medical leave of absence.[link to 5.6.2: Work]

There are organizations that provide financial assistance, even for travel and lodging expenses for cancer treatment. The American Cancer Society and CancerCare offer financial assistance, and you may consider researching if you can acquire these resources to help your loved one with financial needs.The American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge® may also be an option. Hope Lodge® has locations across the U.S. and gives cancer patients and their caregivers a place to stay when they are far from home.


References

1 Marur S, Forastiere AA. Head and neck cancer: changing epidemiology, diagnosis, and treatment. Mayo Clin Proc. 2008 Apr;83(4):489-501.

2 Hillner BE, Smith TJ, Desch CE. Hospital and physician volume or specialization and outcomes in cancer treatment: importance in quality of cancer care. J Clin Oncol. 2000 Jun;18(11):2327-40.

3 National Cancer Institute Website. Accessed at http://www.cancer.gov/ on February 19, 2013.

4 Chaturvedi SK, Shenoy A, Prasad KM, Senthilnathan SM, Premlatha BS. Concerns, coping and quality of life in head and neck cancer patients. Support Care Cancer.1996 May;4(3):186-90.

5 Hoffman B. Cancer survivors at work: a generation of progress. CA Cancer J Clin. 2005 Sep-Oct;55(5):271-80.