Study Cites Risks in Delay of Breast-Cancer Care

By Kaplan, Karen | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), April 30, 2013 | Go to article overview

Study Cites Risks in Delay of Breast-Cancer Care


Kaplan, Karen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


LOS ANGELES -- It stands to reason that the longer a woman waits to start breast cancer treatment, the worse her prognosis. A new study of California women puts some hard numbers on the cost of delaying treatment -- and finds that Latinas, African-Americans and poor women were most likely to put their recovery at risk by waiting six weeks or more to have surgery or begin chemotherapy.

Researchers from the University of California, Irvine and Children's Hospital of Orange County focused on breast cancer patients between ages 15 and 39. Females in this age group account for only 5 percent to 6 percent of all breast cancer patients, but their cancers are typically more aggressive, and the urgency to begin treatment is increased.

Using data from the California Cancer Registry database, the research team identified 8,860 women who were diagnosed between 1997 and 2006.

Records in the database showed which women began treatment within two weeks of diagnosis and which women waited at least six weeks to get their treatment underway.

Here's what they found:

Twenty-two percent of women who delayed their treatment for at least six weeks were not alive five years after their diagnosis. That compares with 16 percent of women who began treatment within two weeks of diagnosis and 17 percent of women who got started within two to four weeks.

Nearly 18 percent of women with a low socioeconomic status, or SES, delayed their treatment for at least six weeks, compared with 8 percent of women with a high SES. Perhaps as a result, 28 percent of the low SES women died within five years, compared with 11 percent of the high SES women.

In a related finding, 18 percent of women with no health insurance or who were insured through a public program waited at least six weeks to begin treatment, and 31 percent of them died within five years. …

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