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Material deprivation and access to cancer care in a universal health care system

Davis LE, Coburn NG, Hallet J, Earle CC, Liu Y, Myrehaug S, Mahar AL. Cancer. 2020; Aug 3 [Epub ahead of print]. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/cncr.33107


Background — The role of socioeconomic factors as determinants of oncology consultations for advanced cancers in public payer health care systems is unknown. This study examined the association between material deprivation and receipt of cancer care among patients with advanced gastrointestinal (GI) cancer.

Methods — This was a population‐based, retrospective cohort study of noncuratively treated patients with GI cancer diagnosed from 2007 to 2017. Material deprivation, representing income, quality of housing, education, and family structure, was defined as quintiles on the basis of 2016 census data. The first consultation with a radiation oncologist or medical oncologist and the receipt of 1 or more instances of radiation and/or chemotherapy were measured in the year after diagnosis. Adjusted, cause‐specific Cox proportional hazards competing risk analyses were used (competing event = death).

Results — This study included 34,022 noncuratively treated patients with GI cancer. Consultation rates ranged from 67.8% for those in the most materially deprived communities to 73.5% for those in the least materially deprived communities. Among those with a consult, rates of cancer‐directed therapy ranged from 58.5% for patients in the most materially deprived communities to 62.3% for patients in the least materially deprived communities. Patients living in the most materially deprived communities were significantly less likely to see a radiation and/or medical oncologist after a diagnosis (hazard ratio [HR], 0.88; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.85‐0.92) and significantly less likely to receive radiation and/or chemotherapy (HR, 0.80; 95% CI, 0.76‐0.85) than those living in the least materially deprived communities.

Conclusions — This study identified socioeconomic disparities in accessing cancer care. Continued efforts at examining and developing evidence‐based policies for interventions that begin before or at the time of oncologist consultation are required to address root causes of inequities.

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