Cancer Survival Higher In 2008 But Health Care Reform Needed

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

According to statistics from the American Cancer Society, more Americans are surviving cancer. Statistics for five-year cancer survival rose from 50% to 66% between 1996 and 2003, though life expectancy still varies, depending on diagnosis and disease stage. Early diagnosis and treatment intervention of all types of cancer continues to show the best outcomes. The results of the analysis should be interpreted with caution, given the incidence of cancer recurrence. Despite advances in treatment, more than 1500 people a day die from cancer, the second leading cause of death in the United States, following heart disease.

The American Cancer Society expresses concern over 47 million uninsured Americans who may not seek medical care for cancer screening. Cancer care is costly. One in five insured patients with cancer deplete their savings. Those without insurance are less likely to survive five years, and are often diagnosed in advanced stages of cancer. The society is calling for health reform measures that "include adequate, available, affordable, and administratively simple health insurance coverage for all without regard to health status or previous medical claims".


Without access to preventive cancer screening, cancer survival declines. Statistics show that "cancer survival for all cancer sites combined, patients who were uninsured and those who were Medicaid-insured at the time of diagnosis were 1.6 times as likely to die in 5 years as those with private insurance." Women with breast cancer on Medicaid or uninsured were found to have more advances disease when compared to those who were insured.

Data from the Cancer Society showed that 65% of insured patients survived cancer for five years, compared to 50% of uninsured, and 46% of those with Medicaid. Women with breast cancer consistently had poorer survival rates if uninsured or receiving Medicaid benefits. However, women receiving Medicaid had high rates of mammography for breast cancer screening, a fact that leads to questions about possible breakdowns in follow-up care.

Access to health care is an important factor when looking at cancer survival, a fact that is not lost by the American Cancer Society, as they push for awareness through their campaigns. Disparities in health care are recognizable, though the reasons are complex. One of the goals of the American Cancer Society is to challenge those disparities and eliminate them by 2015 by targeting areas that increase cancer burden in various segments of the US population.

Healthcare coverage aside, the group intends to focus on education, socioeconomic factors that promote cancer-causing activities such as tobacco abuse, poor literacy, dietary habits and lack of physical activity, ensuring that everyone has adequate access to cancer screening and treatment. Visit the American Cancer Society's website for more data.