(HealthDay News) — Travel distance to a comprehensive cancer center is associated with stage of breast cancer at diagnosis and surgery type, according to a study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research’s International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research, held from Oct. 27 to 30 in National Harbor, Md.

Krishan Jethwa, from the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Grand Forks, and colleagues conducted a hospital-based retrospective chart review involving 260 women diagnosed with incident breast cancer receiving treatment at a comprehensive cancer center in Fargo, N.D. The correlation of travel distance with breast cancer stage, treatment type, and survival was assessed.

The researchers observed significant linear trends between travel distance and stage of diagnosis, and between travel distance and surgery type. The further the distance, the more likely women were to have a later stage of diagnosis and to have a mastectomy. No correlation was observed for travel distance and age at diagnosis, radiotherapy receipt, or five-year survival.

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“The main purpose of this study was to determine if women in rural North Dakota and Minnesota were at a disadvantage in terms of breast cancer screening, treatment, and ultimately, survival outcome,” Jethwa said in a statement. “This highlights the need for improved access to screening and treatment for rural populations.”