More than a 60-day delay in chemotherapy, after the diagnosis of breast cancer, results in 26% increased risk of death for the patient. Medical experts sought to better understand why many female patients choose to delay treatment after a cancer diagnosis.
There are numerous health disparities that contribute to significantly higher risks of cancers. Increased risk of cancers has been associated among those with additional comorbidities, low socioeconomic status, patients who are Black or Hispanic, unmarried, and those who are enrolled in government health services. Along with the increased risk of developing cancer, health disparities also contribute to the delay of treatment. Patient delays are often complex and involve a combination of contributing factors.
A study amongst breast cancer patients was conducted to determine why women often experience a delay to chemotherapy. By thoroughly investigating the multitude of contributing factors, medical experts would be better able to understand this occurrence.
The study consisted of 17 women: 2 Black, 7 Latina, and 8 non-Latina White, all of whom waited more than 60 days to begin cancer treatment. All subjects were interviewed, recorded, and were analyzed to identify common barriers that contributed to patient delay in cancer treatment.
Common barriers described by participants included fear, anxiety, and lack of emotional support. Patients described their role within the family units, many with the household financial responsibility as a caregiver. Therefore, treatments were delayed due to the obligation to provide income. Other financial barriers included access to affordable health care, insurance issues, and the cost of treatment.
From this data, we can conclude that the delay of chemotherapy in female patients is a complex issue with multiple levels of factors. Disparities including race, and socioeconomic status, can directly contribute to the access to quality healthcare treatment. Emotional health issues, as well as a lack of emotional support, are also contributing factors. Intervention from the patient’s medical team, family, financial aid, and emotional support from the community may enable women to seek chemotherapy in a more timely manner.