It is an accepted truth that the availability of and access to affordable health care can have a significant impact on cancer patients’ care and health outcomes. Unfortunately, that means that many Americans are falling through the cracks.
Minority communities statistically live in lower socioeconomic conditions, with less access to health care than white communities. High co-pays, medication costs and prohibitive hospital bills can discourage cancer patients from receiving the best care possible. While cancer financial assistance programs exist to help cancer patients navigate the financial burdens of cancer, the disproportionate impact of cancer on financially disadvantaged communities continues to be a serious challenge.
A new study from the Yale University Cancer Center found that black and Hispanic women with breast cancer were less likely than white women to undergo a genetic test that can help doctors create an action plan.
The report focused on Oncotype Dx, which helps doctors understand the genetic impact of early-stage breast cancer, information that can determine whether chemotherapy or other approaches would be most effective. The test can also suggest if the patient is at a high risk for recurrence once the cancer cells are eliminated.
In a study of 8,000 Connecticut women, more than 51 percent of white women who would be good candidates for the test received it, compared to just 47 percent of Hispanic women and 44 percent of black women. The disparity was also present for women who didn’t fall within the guidelines for the test but received it anyway — 21 percent of white women, and just 9 percent of black and Hispanic women.
While the test itself is cost-prohibitive — about $4,000 — that’s often an expense absorbed by most insurance plans. But, many women of color are un- or under-insured, which could restrict access to the potentially life-saving test. And, with health care less available, women of color are less likely than white women to visit a physician and undergo regular mammograms and other health screenings that could lead to an initial diagnosis — which could further lesson their chance of being able to catch breast cancer early enough to get the Oncotype Dx.
Unfortunately, the research is in line with many other studies that highlight the disproportionate impact of breast cancer on minority women. While increased awareness of Oncotype Dx and other treatment and prevention methods is needed, the report also suggests the importance of cancer financial assistance.
LifeCredit’s living-benefit loans provide up to half of a patient’s death benefit right away, letting patients face their diagnosis with fewer financial worries. When patients can readily access life-saving treatments and tests, while also managing their personal finances, the fight against cancer becomes just a bit less daunting.
Cancer doesn’t discriminate — it can impact any person, regardless of age, sex or race — so patients should all have the same fighting chance for conquering their diagnosis.