Background: Access to cancer care is a problem that continues to plague refugees displaced from their home countries. The turbulent political crisis in Syria, which has led to millions of refugees seeking asylum in Turkey, merits further attention. We aimed to study the rate of utilization of radiation therapy among Syrian refugees with cancer living in Turkey in an attempt to identify the contributing factors predictive of non-compliance with prescribed RT.

Methods: In this retrospective review of 14 institutional databases, Syrian refugee patients in Turkey with a cancer diagnosis from January 2015 to December 2019 who were treated with RT were identified. The demographic data, treatment compliance rates, and toxicity outcomes in these patients were surveyed. Variable predictors of noncompliance such as age, sex, diagnosis, treatment length, and toxicity were studied. The association between these variables and patient noncompliance was determined.

Results: We identified 10,537 patients who were diagnosed with cancer during the study period, of whom 1010 (9.6%) patients were treated with RT. Breast cancer (30%) and lung cancer (14%) were the most common diagnoses with up to 68% of patients diagnosed at an advanced stage (Stage III, IV). 20% of the patients were deemed noncompliant. Treatment with concurrent chemoradiotherapy (OR 1.61, 95% CI 1.06-2.46, p = 0.023) and living in a refugee camp (OR 3.62, 95% CI 2.43-5.19, p < 0.001) were associated with noncompliance. Age, sex and treatment length were not significantly associated with noncompliance.

Conclusions: Noncompliance with radiotherapy among Syrian refugees in Turkey remains an area of concern with a multitude of factors contributing to these alarming numbers. Further studies to better ascertain the finer nuances of this intricately complex problem and a global combination of efforts can pave the way to providing a solution.

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