Cancer in Uninsured Often Diagnosed at More Advanced, Lethal Stage

THURSDAY, July 14, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- Not having health insurance can be deadly if cancer strikes: A new study shows that people without it are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage cancers and face lower survival rates than their insured peers.

The difference was particularly marked for six cancers -- prostate, colon, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, oral cavity, liver and esophagus -- where uninsured individuals diagnosed with stage 1 disease fared worse than insured people diagnosed with stage 2 disease.

"Our findings extend earlier research showing that lack of health insurance coverage is associated with later stage at diagnosis and worse short-term survival among individuals newly diagnosed with cancer, with more recent data and more information on long-term survival," said study author Jingxuan Zhao. She's a senior associate scientist at the American Cancer Society.

"Improving access to comprehensive health insurance coverage is critical for ensuring access to care throughout the cancer care continuum, including receipt of recommended cancer screening, timely diagnosis and quality treatment," Zhao said in a society news release.

The study, published July 13 in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, used data from the U.S. National Cancer Database, which includes about 70% of all newly diagnosed cancer cases from 1,500 accredited facilities throughout the country. The data included patient information on demographics, tumor characteristics, health insurance coverage and vital status for people who had any of 19 common cancers and who were diagnosed between 2010 and 2013.

The analysis suggested that people without health insurance were more likely to postpone doctor visits, resulting in a late-stage diagnosis, the researchers said. But people without health insurance coverage were also more likely to have worse short- and long-term survival rates after diagnosis. Uninsured individuals fared worse within each stage for all of the 19 cancers combined.

The American Cancer Society stressed the need for better access to health insurance coverage to improve these outcomes across the board.

More information

Visit the U.S. National Institutes of Health for more about cancer and its treatments.

SOURCE: American Cancer Society, news release, July 13, 2022

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