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Lack Of Health Insurance May Delay Cancer Diagnosis

Armen Hareyan's picture

People without health insurance coverage or by Medicaid are more likely to be cancer diagnosed in late stages compared to those covered by private insurance.

American Cancer Society examined 3.7 million patients who were cancer diagnosed from 1998 to 2004. This study is the first to examine link between numerous types of cancer and insurance, taking into consideration latest data.

According to the study, those cancers that are being diagnosed in very early stages using simple tests are being diagnosed late in uninsured or underinsured patients. Among these types of cancer researchers mention breast, skin, lung, colon cancers. These diseases can be diagnosed even only by symptoms examine, but uninsured are often being diagnosed on third or fourth stages. Other cancers, such as bladder, kidney, prostate, thyroid, uterus, ovary, pancreas, show less disparities.

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Study suggests: 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 leads to increased morbidity, decreased quality of life and survival and, often, increased costs."

Research also mentions disparities between blacks, Hispanics, whites: blacks are more likely to be diagnosed late than whites and Hispanics, Hispanics are more likely to be diagnosed late than whites.

Some other researchers don't agree with this research, saying that late diagnosis is not only a matter of insurance, but also a matter of health literacy and cultural differences. This group of scientists also suggests that those with private insurance may be over diagnosed and over treated, because some types of cancer don't progress to fast and treating these types of cancers sometimes may even shorten patient lives.

"Do these findings mean that patients without insurance are being diagnosed too late, or that insured patients are being excessively diagnosed?" said Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, a professor at Dartmouth who studies the usefulness of medical procedures. "And if it does mean that too many are being diagnosed late, we don't know if it's the problem of not being insured or a problem of cultural norms and patient education."