By Leah Barber, SE Regional Manager State Policy & Advocacy, Susan G. Komen
In North Carolina, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and the third leading cause of cancer deaths. More than 10,220 people are estimated to be diagnosed with breast cancer and 1,450 will die from the disease this year in North Carolina alone. Unfortunately, many of these people fall into the coverage gap, resulting in later stage diagnosis and little to no treatment options.
Currently, there are over 1 million uninsured North Carolinians, of which approximately 600,000 could benefit from closing the insurance gap and having affordable insurance options available to them.
Numerous studies have shown that patients with access to health care are more likely to receive timely diagnosis and treatment, and less likely to present with late-stage or advanced cancers.
A new study led by Susan G. Komen® Scholars found that patients diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer (MBC), which is cancer that has spread from the breasts to other parts of the body, had improved survival rates and decreased mortality rates when those patients had access to health care. This is the first study that demonstrates not only the improved outcomes due to Medicaid expansion but also a decrease in the rates of racial disparities.
Results of the study were recently published in JAMA Oncology. According to the article, the study shows that Medicaid expansion was associated with improved survival and decreased two-year mortality disparity in the post-expansion period compared to the pre-expansion period.
Komen believes access to affordable health care is vital to the early detection and timely treatment of breast cancer. If individuals are unable to access screening and diagnosis, they will delay seeking lifesaving health care services. This delay can mean that people will not seek care until the cancer has spread to other parts of her body – making it much deadlier, up to five times more expensive to treat and will result in increased burden on an already overburdened health care system.
Komen urges lawmakers to act now to ensure all North Carolinians facing breast cancer have access to the health care services they require, which could mean the difference between life and death. Now is the time to expand Medicaid in North Carolina.