Results were published earlier this year of a nationwide study done by the American Cancer Society. They compared the stage of cancer when it was diagnosed with whether or not those people had (a) private health insurance, (b) Medicaid or (c) no insurance.
The study included patients with twelve different types of cancer who were diagnosed between 1998 and 2004. The insurance information used came from the National Cancer Database.
Some Specific Findings
- For cancers that can be detected by early screenings (such as cancers of the skin, lung, breast, and colon), uninsured people were more likely to be diagnosed in Stage III or IV than Stage I, by two to three times.
- Blacks were statistically more likely to be diagnosed late than whites
- Hispanics were also more likely to be diagnosed late, but by a smaller margin
The researchers concluded that people with no private insurance were not being monitored well enough, either by screening or timely diagnoses. They were unsure why, but speculated that those with no insurance either could not pay for it or did not want to pay for it, and delayed visits to a doctor when they began early symptoms (e.g., a persistent cough that could indicate early lung cancer). Or alternatively, perhaps it was a problem of patient education.
Early diagnosis and comprehensive screening is not necessarily 100% beneficial, some say. It can lead to over-treatment, with doctors treating minor benign tumors as if they were malignant.
The Cancer Society has a mission of increasing the number of people who have health insurance. By 2015, they would like to cut cancer mortality rates by half, and cancer incidence by a quarter.
Cancer diagnosis can also be late because of medical negligence. If you or a loved one have been diagnosed in Stage III or IV, and feel that you could and should have been diagnosed in Stage I or II, you may have a valid legal claim. Please contact our office to schedule a free case evaluation.