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Cancer Diagnosis Discriminates

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, February 19, 2008 11:19 AM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs, Wrongful Death

Cancer diagnosis may depend on whether  you have private insurance.


You are diagnosed with cancer at a late stage of the disease.

You are uninsured or have Medicaid coverage which is available to low-income individuals and families who fit into an eligibility group that is recognized by federal and state law.

A nationwide study finds the underinsured and uninsured patients are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer in later stages than those who have private insurance.

This study comes from the American Cancer Society and is published Monday in the British medical journal, The Lancet Oncology.

At the low end of priority for diagnosis and treatment are African-Americans. Complicating that picture of being uninsured or underinsured may be the fact that there are fewer adequate health care providers in minority communities.

Hispanics were also receiving late stage diagnosis but not as significant as blacks.  

A later diagnosis for cancer is not only more expensive to treat but more difficult and less likely to survive. Survivability of colon cancer treated in Stage I has a five-year survival rate of 93 percent compared to eight percent by Stage IV.

In this study a dozen different cancer types and its out come was gathered from the National Cancer Data Base looking at 3.7 million patients who received a cancer diagnosis from 1998 to 2004.

What the study shows is that cancers found through standard screenings such as breast, colon and skin cancers had a diagnosis at Stage III or Stage IV, the later stages where treatment is less likely to be effective.  Fewer disparities were found in cancers of the bladder, kidney, prostate, thyroid, uterus, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, ovary and pancreas cancer.

The study’s authors concluded that “individuals without private insurance are not receiving optimum care in terms of cancer screening or timely diagnosis and follow-up with health care providers.”

Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, a professor at Dartmouth tells the New York Times, “We don’t know if it’s the problem of not being insured or a problem of cultural norms and patient education.”

The authors concluded that the study results have significant implications for the US health-care reform indicating insurance should be made more widely available as well as early screening particularly for breast, colon and cervical cancers. #

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