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Cancer. 2011 Aug 15;117(16):3824-32. doi: 10.1002/cncr.25970. Epub 2011 Feb 24.

Having health insurance does not eliminate race/ethnicity-associated delays in breast cancer diagnosis in the District of Columbia.

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Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, Washington, District of Columbia 20037, USA.



Delays in follow-up after breast cancer screening contribute to disparities in breast cancer outcomes. The objective of this research was to determine the impact of race/ethnicity and health insurance on diagnostic time, defined as number of days from suspicious finding to diagnostic resolution.


This retrospective cohort study of 1538 women examined for breast abnormalities between 1998-2010 at 6 hospitals/clinics in the District of Columbia measured mean diagnostic times between non-Hispanic whites (NHWs), non-Hispanic blacks (NHBs), and Hispanics with private, government, or no health insurance by using a full-factorial ANOVA model.


Respective average--geometric mean (95% CI)--diagnostic times (in days) for NHWs, NHBs, and Hispanics were 16 (12, 21), 27 (23, 33), and 51 (35, 76) among privately insured; 12 (7, 19), 39 (32, 48), and 71 (48, 105) among government insured; 45 (17, 120), 60 (39, 92), and 67 (56, 79) among uninsured. Government insured NHWs had significantly shorter diagnostic times than government insured NHBs (P = .0003) and Hispanics (P < .0001). Privately insured NHWs had significantly shorter diagnostic times than privately insured NHBs (P = .03) and Hispanics (P < .0001). Privately insured NHBs had significantly shorter diagnostic times than uninsured NHBs (P = .03).


Insured minorities waited >2 times longer to reach their diagnostic resolution than insured NHWs. Having private health insurance increased the speed of diagnostic resolution in NHBs; however, their diagnostic time remained significantly longer than for privately insured NHWs. These results suggest diagnostic delays in minorities are more likely caused by other barriers associated with race/ethnicity than by insurance status.

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