Culberson County, Texas: the Unreported County in Regards to Cancer Occurrence

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CULBERSON COUNTY, TEXAS:
THE UNREPORTED COUNTY IN REGARDS TO CANCER OCCURRENCE
Dianna D. Marin and Christopher M. Ritzi, PhD.
Department of Biology, Sul Ross State University, Alpine, Texas 79832

Student – Dianna Marin
dmarin@sulross.edu
Sul Ross State University
Credit Hours Completed – 129

Honors Director – Dr. Kathy Stein
Kstein@sulross.edu

CULBERSON COUNTY, TEXAS: THE UNREPORTED COUNTY IN REGARDS TO CANCER OCCURRENCE

Abstract--According to the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute’s cancer registries, cancer is the second leading cause of death in the state of Texas. However, in many rural communities where cancer treatment facilities are not located, the cancer incidence statistics are suppressed to prevent duplication of counts from the reporting county where the patient is treated. An overview of the cancer incidence and trends of the top ten cancers for the United States and all sites combined for the rural area of Culberson County, Texas was performed for the years 2000 through 2009. Data for the study was obtained based on reports from the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-9) and medical records from Culberson County Hospital and the Van Horn Rural Health Clinic in Culberson County, Texas. A total of 429 actual new cancers were identified over the ten year period. This is an average of 42.9 official new cases each year for a rural population of only 2431. After adjusting these numbers to make comparable at a “per 100,000” population, the cancer incidence rate for this target area was found to be three times the national and state average. With medical advancements in cancer treatment and the aging of the population, the cancer incidence will likely continue to rise for years or even decades to come. Accurately accounting for rural areas will provide information on the impact of cancer on the health care system, document the need for increased research, and further the progress in supporting cancer control knowledge across all segments of the population.

In the state of Texas, cancer is the second leading cause of death (Wilkerson and Smith, 1995). The incidence of various cancers in Culberson County (population 2,431), which has it’s primarily residence as the town of Van Horn, Texas (population of 2,013), is largely unknown (www. city-data.com). Most patients who present to Culberson County Hospital and the Van Horn Rural Health Clinic are referred to other facilities, and as such do not get counted for this county. The possibility of developing cancer can have an effect not only on individuals but also on the medical management of patients undergoing routine clinical care as well. In an attempt to better quantify the numbers of cancer incidence in the county, the records of Culberson County Hospital and the Van Horn Rural Health Clinic were examined over a ten year period of 2000 through 2009 to investigate the rate of cancer incidence in Culberson County. This preliminary study was prompted due to a strong recent opinion among various Culberson County Hospital providers in Van Horn, Texas. There is the perception that local healthcare providers are seeing many more patients with cancer symptoms than previously (Friday, A. Md., Pers. Comm.). As Culberson County Hospital is a frontier hospital, it does not have the staff or resources to treat a range of specialty conditions, and thus refers patients to El Paso, Midland, Odessa, Lubbock, Dallas, Houston and elsewhere. The patients being referred to oncologists outside of Culberson County for official diagnosis are not reported in their county of residence but in the county of treatment. This is due to the method of reporting by the referred oncologist. In an effort to prevent duplication of state statistics and inflate occurrence percentages, reports from the home provider are omitted (Carrillo, J., Pers.Comm.)....
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