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Cancer Survivors Skip Medical and Dental Treatments due to Costs

Update Date: Oct 04, 2013 04:02 PM EDT

A new study revealed very disappointing statistics about access to medical and dental care for cancer survivors. This study reported that cancer survivors living in rural areas are more likely to skip medical treatment and dental care due to financial issues.

For this study, the research team examined medical data on 7,804 cancer survivors. The researchers used the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Office of Management and Budget's Rural-Urban Continuum (RUC) codes and found out that 1,642 of the survivors were from rural areas whereas 6,161 of them lived in urban neighborhoods. The data came from the National Health Interview Study, which was conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The numbers were gathered between 2006 and 2010.

"This is the first population-based study to examine whether cancer survivors in rural and urban areas are equally likely to forgo health care as a result of concerns about cost," said Nynikka Palmer, Dr.P.H., M.P.H., postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Social Sciences and Health Policy at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C. "We found a disparity among older survivors, for whom health insurance coverage through Medicare is almost universal, while no disparity was found for younger survivors after controlling for various factors. This suggests that health insurance coverage alone may not ensure equal access to health care.

The researchers calculated that 49 percent of the sample set were people between the ages of 18 and 64. 51 percent of them were 65-years-old or older. In the younger group of people, the majority of them were insured via an employer. For the other group, health insurance was split between Medicare/Medicaid and private.

The team reported that cancer survivors who were 65 or above from rural areas were 66 percent more likely to forgo medical care. When it came to dental care, this same group was 54 percent more likely to skip it. The researchers reasoned that people residing in rural areas might not have easy access to medical treatment. The travel costs on top of the medical costs might be too much for the seniors

"Cancer survivors who require regular follow-up care after treatment, but do not receive it, may be at risk for other health conditions like diabetes and heart disease, poorer quality of life, and possibly premature death. Health care providers and public health officials should be aware of this rural-urban disparity so that they can help rural cancer survivors access the resources they need to get care," Palmer added.

The study was published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention

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