Uninsured breast cancer patients more likely to die

Lack of access may be reason for more deaths, late-state diagnoses

Uninsured women with breast cancer were nearly 2.6 times more likely to have a late-stage diagnosis than cancer patients who were insured, finds a new study from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

Uninsured patients were 60 percent more likely to die from the disease, the study revealed.

Kimberly Johnson

The study, “Breast Cancer Stage Variation and Survival in Association with Insurance Status and Sociodemographic Factors in US Women 18 to 64 Years Old,” was published in the April issue of the journal Cancer.

“Access to screening services may play a role in the association between insurance status and breast cancer stage at diagnosis and survival,” said lead author Kimberly Johnson, associate professor at the Brown School. “Improving access to primary care and mammography screenings in these populations may improve breast cancer outcomes.”

Researchers analyzed cancer registry data from more than 50,000 women age 18-64 who were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 and 2008. They found that patients with Medicaid were also more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage cancer and have worse survival rates than those with private insurance, although they had better diagnoses and outcomes than uninsured women.

Lower proportions of uninsured, black, unmarried and younger women survived five years following their breast cancer diagnosis (see chart below).

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