Researchers say that young women with breast cancer who are of a poorer financial status may experience delays in seeking medical care and advice for the disease. This is according to a study published in the journal Cancer.
However, the ACS states breast cancer is the leading cause of death in this age group, and the 5-year survival rate as a result of breast cancer is slightly lower in women diagnosed with the disease before the age of 40.
Previous research has also shown the impact of the disease in younger women. Earlier this year, Medical News Today reported on a study revealing that the majority of deaths resulting from breast cancer occur in women under the age of 50.
Researchers from the US, led by Dr. Kathryn J. Ruddy of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, and Dr. Ann H. Partridge of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA, set out to determine why the disease appears to have a more fatal effect on women of a younger age.
They analyzed 585 women 40-years-old or younger who had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. The researchers looked at the women's initial signs or symptoms of breast cancer and how long it took them to be diagnosed.
'Hidden' medical costs may cause diagnosis delays
From this, the research team found that 80% of these women detected their own breast abnormalities. Of these, 17% delayed visiting a doctor to receive an evaluation for at least 90 days, and 12% of these women reported a delay of at least 90 days between the doctor's visit and their diagnosis.
Furthermore, the findings revealed that women with poorer financial status were more likely to delay a visit to their doctor once they had detected a breast abnormality.
Dr. Ruddy notes that these findings suggest that "economic disparity" may be an important consideration when looking at future interventions to reduce delays in doctor's visits for women who have noticed breast abnormalities.
"The findings may lead to research focusing on whether reducing co-pays and 'hidden' costs of seeking medical care - such as parking charges, child care expenses, and lost wages - may improve the timeliness of diagnosis in this population."
Awareness and education 'may reduce delays'
The researchers note that further studies are warranted to determine whether delays in breast cancer diagnoses can be reduced through educating young women in the importance of seeking prompt medical attention for new breast abnormalities.
Additionally, they say that further research should investigate whether delays can be reduced through increasing awareness in the medical community regarding appropriate evaluation and follow-up for breast abnormalities in young women.
"If education of young women and/or health care providers about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer facilitates more rapid diagnosis and treatment," the researchers add, "more cancers might be excised before they metastasize outside the breast, possibly resulting in fewer deaths."
"Relevant interventions may be most effective if they are targeted at young women who are less financially comfortable and, thus, are more at risk of a delay in seeking medical attention."
Medical News today recently reported on a study detailing 10 critical gaps in breast cancer research that need to be addressed urgently in order to reduce the impact of the disease.