Distance Traveled to Head and Neck Cancer Provider: A Measure of Socioeconomic Status and Access

Sean T. Massa, Adam P. Liebendorfer, Jose P. Zevallos, Angela L. Mazul

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Objective: Improved head and neck cancer survival has been associated with traveling farther distances for treatment, potentially due to patients seeking higher-quality facilities. This study investigates the role of both facility and confounding patient factors on this relationship. Study Design: Review of national registry data. Setting: National Cancer Database. Subjects and Methods: Adults with head and neck cancer diagnosed from 2004 to 2014 were identified. Overall survival was compared among distance-to-facility quartiles via univariate and multivariate survival models. Then, the analysis was stratified by facility and patient factors, and the association between distance and survival was compared among strata. Results: Overall survival was worst in the shortest-distance quartile (<5 miles; median survival, 80.7 months; 95% CI, 79.2-82.3), while other distance groups showed similar survival (range, 96.4-104 months). This finding remained in the multivariate model (adjusted hazard ratio vs first distance quartile: 0.88; 95% CI, 0.87-0.89). The association between survival and distance persisted in all subgroups when stratified by facility volume and type (adjusted hazard ratio range, 0.82-0.91), suggesting that facility quality does not fully account for this association. When stratified by income, distance remained statistically associated with survival but with a smaller effect size than that of income. Conclusion: The association between distance to treating facility and head and neck cancer survival is limited to patients with worse survival outcomes living within 5 miles of the facility and is not fully explained by measures of facility quality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-203
Number of pages11
JournalOtolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (United States)
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020


  • National Cancer Database
  • access to care
  • disparities
  • distance to provider
  • head and neck cancer


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