The hotels, which mostly operate informally, don’t provide nursing but put patients closer to medical services and experts, and give them a place to cook their own food and share tips with fellow patients.
Despite their name, they are not traditional hotels, but furnished units in apartment blocks near medical facilities, charging as little as $7 a night per room. And while they occupy a legal gray zone, doctors often refer patients to them, and state-run media have published glowing articles about the need they are fulfilling.
Experts have documented hundreds of cases of “cancer villages,” or communities hit by higher-than-average cancer rates due to polluting nearby industries. In 2013, Chinese were shocked to learn of an 8-year-old girl billed as the country’s youngest lung cancer patient, the result, her doctors said, of eastern China’s choking air pollution. Pratt said air pollution was clearly playing a role, as were smoking, unhealthy diets and obesity.
Chen Shuhong, owner of one of the cancer hotels said she’s seen the need for her rooms increase dramatically. “People sought me out, so I opened this,” Chen said. “If the government says, ‘Don’t do it,’ then I won’t do it. But so many people are getting this disease, and there’s a need.”