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Low-income cancer patients are less likely to survive: study

Last Updated Jul 12, 2016 at 12:07 pm PDT

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Summary

Study finds nearly 18% difference in survival rates for lung cancer patients between highest and lowest income earners

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The less money you make, the less likely you are to survive a cancer diagnosis.

That’s according to a new study, which found a nearly 18 per cent difference in survival rates for lung cancer patients between the highest and lowest income earners.

Rates for colorectal cancer were off by six per cent, while breast cancer statistics differed by five per cent.

Rami Rahal with the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer thinks those odds can be improved by ensuring those with less money can access the same level of care as wealthier patients.

“We have a universal health care system. We don’t expect to have barriers to accessing hospital care or cancer-centric care. But it looks like we do, and we need to understand what those barriers are so we can address them.”

“We have known for a long time that lower-income Canadians have a higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer because of higher smoking rates, higher obesity rates and so on. But survival is a different metric.”

However, Rahal notes your odds of beating the disease are not determined by behaviour.

“Surviving cancer is more a function of how early a patient is diagnosed — how early the symptoms are recognized and [how soon the] patient goes on to treatment, where the chance of cure is high. [It also depends on] how effective the treatment is.”

He believes increased early detection screening is key and boosting access to those type of services could make a big difference in patient outcomes.