How Food, Housing Insecurity Affects Breast Cancer

Women who suffer food or housing insecurity are at risk for undiagnosed breast cancer due to lapses in critical follow-up appointments, according to a study being presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

In this retrospective study, researchers reviewed the medical records of two groups of women undergoing breast imaging at Boston Medical Center (BMC) from January 2015 to December 2018. One group consisted of 4,959 women who underwent screening mammography and, the second group included 3,028 women who underwent diagnostic breast imaging and were recommended for a breast biopsy based on a BI-RADS score of 4 or 5.

The results showed that having food or housing insecurity was associated with longer lapses between diagnostic imaging and breast biopsy compared to interval times for women without those unmet social needs. The findings confirmed that unmet social needs are clearly relevant to patient care, noted senior author Michael D. Fishman, M.D., assistant professor of radiology at BUSM and section chief of breast imaging at BMC.

 

“To best serve our patient population at a safety-net hospital, we must think creatively about the social factors that are preventing our patients from receiving the best care,” Dr. Fishman said via a press release. “Our findings indicate longer lapses between diagnostic imaging and biopsy for patients with unmet social needs, which begs the question: are unmet social needs associated with some amount of breast cancer mortality that could have been prevented? We seek to investigate this in future work.”