Thursday, June 4, 2015

Chances of surviving cancer lower for those living in poverty

Coloradans living in high poverty areas were less likely to survive cancer, according to a report released by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The report, “Cancer and Poverty: Colorado 2001-12,” shows low-income Coloradans were less likely to get screened for cancer or be diagnosed at an early stage, when most cancers are treatable.

“We know early screening saves lives,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, department executive director and chief medical officer. “This report shows the importance of ensuring health care access to all Coloradans, regardless of income.”

According to the report, 70 percent of Coloradans living in low-poverty areas survived cancer for at least five years. But for those who lived in areas of high poverty, the five-year survival rate was just 55 percent. Cancer is the leading cause of death in Colorado, killing more than 7,000 people each year.

For many of those living in high-poverty areas, lack of health insurance is a barrier to early diagnosis, treatment and survival. The health department’s decade-long analysis of cancer and poverty forms a baseline for measuring the effectiveness of health care reform and the department’s efforts to ensure access. The Affordable Care Act requires health insurers to provide preventive care such as cancer screenings at no cost to those who are eligible.

With the expansion of Medicaid and private insurance coverage for prevention services, the department is working with health plans, community clinics and health care providers to ensure access and quality of care for underserved and newly covered Coloradans. The department’s Women’s Wellness Connection and Colorectal Cancer Control programs coordinate initiatives to increase breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screening services with statewide providers.

“Health care reform gives us the opportunity to save thousands of lives by making sure all Coloradans get the care they deserve,” said Wolk. “We encourage all Coloradans to contact their health care providers about getting screened for cancer.”

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