Advanced stage cancer diagnoses declined following health insurance expansion in Massachusetts, likely due to increased access to screening and diagnostic services that identified cancers earlier, according to new research led by health economists at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.
The analysis, published online and scheduled for the February edition of the journal Medical Care, specifically found the decline in colorectal cancers, the second-leading cause of cancer deaths nationwide. The U.S. Preventive Service Task Force recommends everyone over age 50 receive routine screening for colorectal cancer, which has a 90 percent survival rate when treated early. That rate drops substantially when the cancer is diagnosed in advanced stages.
“Colorectal cancer frequently occurs in adults under 65 who are not yet eligible for Medicare. And we know from previous research that people who do not have health insurance or who are underinsured are less likely to get recommended preventive health screenings,” said lead author Dr. Lindsay Sabik, associate professor in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Health Policy and Management. “Cancer is only one disease area where preventive care and early diagnosis can make a big difference in survival and cost of treatment. Our study demonstrates the public health value of expanded health insurance coverage.”Friday Letter Submission, Publish on January 31