Why bother promoting breast cancer detection for poor women only to deny them treatment?

In an article titled Two-Thirds of Hispanic Women Discover Breast Cancer Themselves at U.S. News & World Report on Thursday, Feb. 5, Amanda Gardner writes:

Two-thirds of breast cancers in Hispanic women are detected by a self-exam, while only 23 percent come to light through a mammography and another 6 percent through a clinical exam. Yet screening mammography rates were 83 percent among U.S.-born Hispanic women and 62 percent among non-U.S.-born Hispanic women.

That Hispanic women are both receiving mammograms and beating mammography to the punch with self-exams is encouraging, especially considering the often poor education of the non-U.S.-born subgroup. However, there’s more to the story. . .

What’s troubling, however, is that about half of all women who noticed an abnormality during a self-exam waited at least a month before seeking medical help. . . [Emphasis added.]

Why did women wait so long before seeking help?

At this stage of the game, do we really need to ask?

Largely because of lack of health insurance or other ways to afford medical care. . .

Another article at U.S. News & World Report the same day, Cancer Patients Often Stranded in Health Insurance Nightmares, fleshes out the story:

. . . more than 1 million of 12 million cancer survivors living in the United States have had to forgo care, including prescription drugs, for financial reasons. The problem was most pronounced among Hispanics and blacks.

This is just one of 20 heartbreaking stories in a new Kaiser Family Foundation/American Cancer Society report released Thursday, Feb. 5, called Spending to Survive: Cancer Patients Confront Holes in the Health Insurance System. All the individuals profiled had health insurance at the time they were diagnosed with cancer.

Presumably, upon diagnosis, a woman who’s insured seeks immediate treatment (before, that is, her claims may be denied and she enters American Health-Care Hell). The low-income woman might not even make it through the first gate. Let’s attempt to imagine what life is like for an uninsured woman after she’s been diagnosed.

Patient (hopefully at some point, that is): I found a lump.

Husband: We must see a doctor.

Patient: You know we’re uninsured.

Husband: Don’t worry about the expense. I’ll get another job.

Patient: A third job? You’re already using your second job to pay the $10,000 we owe from when little Tomas had meningitis.

Husband: You’ll die.

Patient: If we seek treatment, we’ll wind up homeless. I’d rather die at home than in a homeless shelter.

Husband: We should never have left Mexico.

Finally, terrified by what’s happening to her body, she seeks out a doctor after a month. Chances are she loses a breast that she didn’t need to — or her life.

Would that health insurance companies were as concerned with saving lives as those who promote early detection. Urging early awareness on low-income women and then placing insurmountable obstacles in the way of treatment is a cruel joke.

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