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Delays in Diagnosis and Treatment of Breast Cancer: A Safety-Net Population Profile

Kshama Jaiswal, Madelyne Hull, Anna L. Furniss, Reina Doyle, Natalia Gayou, and Elizabeth Bayliss

Background: Timely detection and treatment of breast cancer is important in optimizing survival and minimizing recurrence. Given disparities in breast cancer outcomes based on socioeconomic status, we examined time to diagnosis and treatment in a safety-net hospital. Methods: We conducted a retrospective review of all patients with breast cancer diagnosed between July 1, 2010, and June 30, 2012 (N=120). We limited our analytic sample to patients with nonrecurrent, primary stage 0–III breast cancer (N=105) and determined intervals from presentation to diagnosis, diagnosis to first treatment, last surgery to chemotherapy initiation, and last surgery to start of radiation therapy (RT). Using logistic regression, we calculated unadjusted odds of receiving timely treatment (< median time) versus more delayed treatment (≥ median time) as a function of age, language, ethnicity, insurance, Charlson comorbidity index, disease stage, method of first presentation (screening mammography vs care provider), symptoms at presentation, and type of surgical treatment. Results: Patients aged 55 to 64 years accounted for most of the sample (n=37; 35.2%). Median time from presentation to diagnosis (23 days), time from diagnosis to first treatment, and time from surgery to chemotherapy initiation fell within intervals published in the literature; median time from last surgery to start of RT was greater than recommended intervals. Factors significantly associated with longer intervals than median time included stage, method of presentation, language, surgical treatment, insurance, and ethnicity. Conclusions: Patients in this safety-net setting experienced acceptable diagnosis and treatment intervals, except for time to RT. Focused interventions that help care providers access imaging quickly for their symptomatic patients could improve time to diagnosis. Concentrating additional efforts on non–English-speaking, Hispanic patients and those who need to receive RT could improve time to treatment.