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Ajaratu Keshinro MD, Ioannis Hatzaras MD, Kenneth Rifkind MD, Shubhada Dhage MD, Kathie-Ann Joseph MD, MPH
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Cancer screening is a key component of primary care, and access to regular screening mammography (SMG) is highly dependent on recommendation and referral by a primary care provider (PCP). Women with no health insurance or who are underinsured often lack access to a regular PCP and thus access to routine screening.
We retrospectively reviewed the charts of 173 surgical patients diagnosed between January 2012 and December 2013. The main outcome variables were PCP status, method of cancer detection, and breast cancer stage at diagnosis. Additional variables included race, age at diagnosis, family history of breast and ovarian cancer, and medical comorbidities.
Patients with a PCP received more mammograms (SMG) compared with patients without a PCP (61 vs. 37 %; p = 0.003). The majority (73 %) of patients without a PCP presented symptomatically with a palpable mass versus 42 % of patients with a PCP. A significant difference was noted with regard to final pathologic stage of breast cancer between the two groups (p = 0.019), and Caucasian and African American patients were more likely to have locally advanced breast cancer.
Underserved patients with a PCP are more likely to present asymptomatically and at an earlier stage of breast cancer compared with patients without a PCP. Community engagement programs that build relationships with patients may help bring vulnerable patients into the healthcare system for routine screening. Moreover, PCP education regarding the subtleties of breast cancer screening guidelines and referral to a breast specialist is also critical in improving outcomes of underserved patients.
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