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Breast Cancer Patients Lacking Insurance Less Likely to Get Help

December 17, 2007

Sioux Falls, SD – Some women aren't getting the best shot they could at beating breast cancer, even though it's the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women and the second leading cause of cancer deaths. In fact, an American Cancer Society study says breast cancer patients who lack insurance are three times less likely to get the key diagnostic tests they need, to determine whether their cancer has spread and make the best treatment decisions.

Jill Ireland, with the American Cancer Society in South Dakota, strongly believes that health factors should be at the top of the list when it comes to breast cancer care, rather than a woman's insurance status.

"Insurance was a huge factor in patients who received this procedure. The uninsured were 24 percent less likely to receive the lymph node assessment compared to those with private insurance. But, the uninsured have huge barriers to getting appropriate treatment that could save their lives. We know that the uninsured, diagnosed with cancers at a later stage, require more expensive treatment -- and often have a worse outcome."

Diane Wilson is a breast cancer survivor from Sioux Falls who lost her health insurance when she lost a job. She managed to finish chemotherapy treatments following surgery, but was unable to follow up with post-diagnostic testing after losing her health coverage. Wilson says the last time she had access to medicine prescribed by her doctor was last summer.

"I'm not able to continue the five-year plan that the doctor set up for me, because I don't have the insurance and I don't have a way to pay for the medicine. There's a good success rate if you can keep up with the plan, but if you can't, I don't know what happens."

The American Cancer Society estimates that 510 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in South Dakota this year and 100 women will die. About 200,000 women nationwide were involved in the study. Read more about it online, at www.cancer.org.

David Law/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - SD