Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Private Insurance May Help in Earlier Cancer Detection

(HealthDay News) -- Uninsured Americans or those with certain types of public health insurance are more likely to have oral or breast cancer diagnosed at an advanced stage, compared to people with private insurance whose disease is caught earlier.

That's the conclusion of two studies in the July 15 issue of the journal Cancer. They were produced by American Cancer Society researchers who analyzed data from a nationwide cancer database.

The analysis of oropharyngeal cancer patient data found that patients with no health insurance were more likely than those with private insurance to be diagnosed with advanced disease, the largest tumors or invasive disease that had spread to regional lymph nodes.

Patients with public health insurance, particularly Medicaid for low-income families, were also more likely than those with private insurance to have more advanced cancer, the largest tumors and lymph node involvement, the study found.

The analysis of breast cancer patient data revealed that uninsured patients and those covered by Medicaid were almost 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with advanced disease than patients with private insurance.

Improved access to regular medical care and cancer screening programs for the uninsured and underinsured could help reduce these disparities, the authors of both studies said.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Richard C. Wender, president of the American Cancer Society and chairman of the department of family medicine at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, wrote that having "a usual primary care clinician, a trusted source of care, also known as a medical home, is a strong predictor of improved preventive care delivery."

"A primary care medical home plays a vital role in reducing cancer mortality. Individuals who have a regular source of primary care are both more likely to be up to date with cancer screening and more likely to receive timely follow-up and evaluation for abnormal findings on an initial screen," Wender wrote.

More information
The American Medical Association has more about health insurance.

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