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Breast Cancer Caught Earlier in U.S. States With Expanded Medicaid: Study

MONDAY, July 6, 2020 (HealthDay News)

Early-stage breast cancer is more likely to be diagnosed in U.S. states that have expanded Medicaid coverage under Obamacare than in those that haven’t, researchers say.

Their new study looked at a database of more than 71,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer in 31 states that expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act and 14 states that did not.

In the expansion states, the average rate of uninsured breast cancer patients fell from 23% to 14%, and the rate of women diagnosed with advanced breast cancer fell from 23% to 20%.

No significant changes occurred in states that didn’t expand Medicaid.

“If the cancer is diagnosed early, generally treatment is definitive and women have good overall survival,” said study first author Dr. Justin Le Blanc, a surgical resident at the Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital in New Haven, Conn.

“It’s important to get women health care access early. And when patients have access to health care, they’re more likely to utilize it,” he said in a Yale news release.

Differences were especially notable among black women in expansion states, with the percentage of those diagnosed with advanced breast cancer falling from 25% to 21%.

Advanced cancer diagnoses among younger women in expansion states fell from 23% to 21%, but stayed at 26% in non-expansion states.

That reduction of advanced cancer in expansion states is important because breast cancer is much rarer and more aggressive in younger patients, according to the authors of the study published July 1 in the journal JAMA Surgery.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among U.S. women, with an estimated 279,100 diagnoses and 42,170 deaths this year.

The researchers said the next step in this research is to compare the medical services provided to Medicaid-insured breast cancer patients with services received by patients with other insurance or none.

“For example, are these women with Medicaid now receiving increased use of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, reconstructive surgery, or genetic testing?” Le Blanc said.

Study co-author Dr. Tristen Park is an assistant professor of surgery at Yale. She said most women with breast cancer live a long time if it’s caught early and treated correctly.

“The next step is that we should also try to give them a good quality of life,” Park said in the release.

— Robert Preidt

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SOURCE: Yale Cancer Center, news release, June 28, 2020

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