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Wednesday 25th April 2018

Cancer fear for the poor

18th February 2008

A nationwide study in the United States has found that patients without insurance or with insurance through the government’s low-income Medicaid system are more likely than those with private insurance to get cancer diagnoses in late stages, which often means a slimmer chance of survival.

The greatest disparities were found in cancers that could be detected early through standard screening or assessment of symptoms.

"Individuals without private insurance are not receiving optimum care in terms of cancer screening or timely diagnosis and follow-up with health care providers," according to the authors of the American Cancer Society study, published in The Lancet Oncology journal. "Advanced-stage diagnosis leads to increased morbidity, decreased quality of life and survival and, often, increased costs."

The greatest disparities were found in cancers that could be detected early through standard screening or assessment of symptoms, the study found. These include breast cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, and melanoma. Uninsured patients with each of these cancers were two to three times more likely to receive diagnoses of Stage III or Stage IV cancer rather than the more easily treatable Stage I. Smaller disparities were found for non-Hodgkins lymphoma and cancers of the bladder, kidney, prostate, thyroid, uterus, ovary, and pancreas.

African-Americans had a higher risk of late diagnosis, the study found, even after accounting for their disproportionately high rates of lacking any or adequate insurance - possibly because fewer providers serve this cohort. Hispanic patients also had more late-stage diagnoses than whites but fewer than African-Americans.

This study is the first to examine a dozen major cancer types on a national basis using the most current data, The New York Times reported. It mined the National Cancer Data Base, which collected information about insurance to analyse 3.7 million patients who received diagnoses from 1998-2004.


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