Uninsured Have Cancers Diagnosed Later, Reducing Survival

This study falls in the category of proving something most people probably already realized was true, but it is still useful to have the actual evidence. The New York Times reviews a study from the American Cancer Society which shows that people with insurance are more likely to have cancer diagnosed at an early stage. Those who are uninsured, or only have coverage through Medicaid, are more likely to have cancer diagnosed in later stages, reducing their chances of survival.

The widest disparities were noted in cancers that could be detected early through standard screening or assessment of symptoms, like breast cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer and melanoma. For each, uninsured patients were two to three times more likely to be diagnosed in Stage III or Stage IV rather than Stage I. Smaller disparities were found for non-Hodgkins lymphoma and cancers of the bladder, kidney, prostate, thyroid, uterus, ovary and pancreas.

When comparing blacks to whites, the disparities in late-stage diagnosis were statistically significant for 10 of the 12 cancers. Hispanics also had a higher risk but less so than blacks.

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.” Advanced-stage diagnosis, they wrote, “leads to increased morbidity, decreased quality of life and survival and, often, increased costs.”

For those who don’t want to go through the numbers, Dr. Otis W. Brawley, the American Cancer Society’s chief medical officer, sums it up by saying, “There’s evidence that not having insurance increases suffering.” Again, not surprising, but here we get the hard evidence.

Cross posted at The Carpetbagger Report 

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