With Obamacare, More Breast Cancers Diagnosed at Earlier Stages

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More breast cancers have been found at earlier — and potentially more treatable — stages since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Using a nationwide cancer database that includes about 70 percent of all newly diagnosed cancers in the United States, researchers studied breast cancer diagnoses in 211,028 women ages 50 to 74 diagnosed from 2007 to 2009, before the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. They compared these with 259,437 diagnoses from 2011 to 2013, when, under a provision of the act, neither private insurance companies nor Medicare were permitted to charge co-payments for mammography screening.

About 85 percent of the women were white, 10 percent black and 4 percent Latina. Both before and after Obamacare, minority women were more likely than white women to be given diagnoses at a younger age and at a later stage.

The study, in Cancer Epidemiology, adjusted for other variables and found that after Obamacare, the percentage of cancers diagnosed at the earliest stage increased by 3.2 percent for white women, 4.0 percent for blacks and 4.1 percent for Latinas.

“The same woman who pre-A.C.A. would have been diagnosed at Stage 2 was diagnosed at Stage 1 after A.C.A.,” said the lead author, Abigail Silva, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine in Chicago. “The A.C.A. had the potential to improve public health, and there’s more and more evidence coming out each day to show that it is doing that.”