Delaying Treatment Increases Risks for Advanced Breast Cancer Patients

Researchers at Ohio State University have found that women who don’t receive treatment until 60 days after being diagnosed with more advanced breast cancer are at a significantly higher risk of dying. In their study, in women whose cancer had spread to lymph nodes or distant sites, a delay of more than 60 days was linked with an 85% higher likelihood of breast cancer-related death, and a 66% higher likelihood of death overall, compared with women who were treated sooner.

The study, published in the December 20, 2012 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, was an analysis of 1,786 low-income women enrolled in the North Carolina Medicaid system. Only 10% of the women started treatment more than 60 days after diagnosis.

Senior author Electra D. Paskett, PhD, said in a statement, “We’re finding as we do research, it is really the lower income population that suffers the highest burden of all diseases. This study suggests that ten percent of women can’t get access to care, or it takes a longer time to get access to care.”

The study did not find a link between delay in treatment and survival among some early-stage patients. The researchers conclude that efforts to help patients get care should focus on those in later stages. And they urge clinicians to make changes in their practices that will help women diagnosed in later stages begin treatment sooner.

Learning how to navigate the health care system can be overwhelming, especially for those with limited access to health care, those with language barriers, and those with limited resources. The American Cancer Society’s Patient Navigator Program connects patients at 134 cancer treatment centers across the nation with trained guides who provide information, resources, and support. Call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 for more information.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Effect on Survival of Longer Intervals Between Confirmed Diagnosis and Treatment Initiation Among Low-Income Women With Breast Cancer. Published in the December 20, 2012 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology. First author: John M. McLaughlin, PhD, MSPH, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio.


American Cancer Society news stories are copyrighted material and are not intended to be used as press releases. For reprint requests, please see our Content Usage Policy.