Understanding American Indian Perceptions Toward Radiation Therapy

Samir H. Patel, Sasha Ebrahimi, Donald W. Northfelt, Timothy E. Mathews, Farhia M. Omar, Erika D. Martinez, Todd A. DeWees, Janet M. Okamoto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many American Indian (AI) and Alaska native (AN) patients do not complete guideline-concordant cancer care for the 4 most common cancers. Our aim was to better understand AI/AN attitudes toward radiation therapy (RT). Patients eligible for this survey study were AI/AN patients with cancer at the Phoenix Indian Medical Center who either received previous RT or were recommended to receive RT. An 18-item questionnaire was administered to each of the 50 participants from October 1, 2018, through February 15, 2019. Willingness to travel for RT was compared to respondent characteristics, concerns regarding RT, and obstacles to obtain RT. Duration of RT was important to 78% of patients: 24% would consider traveling 25 miles or more for a standard course, and 48% would travel that distance for a shorter course (P <.001). The top-ranked barriers to RT were transportation, cost of treatment, and insurance compatibility. The top-ranked concerns about RT were adverse effects, cost of treatment, and fear of RT. Concerns about adverse effects were associated with the radiation team’s inability to explain the treatment (P =.05). Transportation concerns were significantly associated with accessibility (P =.02), communication with the RT team (P =.02), and fear of RT (P =.04). AI/AN patients are concerned about the adverse effects of RT and the logistics of treatment, particularly costs, transportation, and insurance compatibility. Use of culturally specific education and hypofractionation regimens may increase acceptance of RT for AI/AN patients with cancer, and this hypothesis will be tested in a future educational intervention-based study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCancer Control
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • American Indian
  • adverse events
  • cost
  • insurance
  • radiation therapy
  • transportation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Oncology


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