Health Insurance Status as a Predictor of Mode of Colon Cancer Detection but Not Stage at Diagnosis: Implications for Early Detection

Public Health Rep. 2021 Mar 31:33354921999173. doi: 10.1177/0033354921999173. Online ahead of print.


OBJECTIVE: For colon cancer patients, one goal of health insurance is to improve access to screening that leads to early detection, early-stage diagnosis, and polyp removal, all of which results in easier treatment and better outcomes. We examined associations among health insurance status, mode of detection (screen detection vs symptomatic presentation), and stage at diagnosis (early vs late) in a diverse sample of patients recently diagnosed with colon cancer from the Chicago metropolitan area.

METHODS: Data came from the Colon Cancer Patterns of Care in Chicago study of racial and socioeconomic disparities in colon cancer screening, diagnosis, and care. We collected data from the medical records of non-Hispanic Black and non-Hispanic White patients aged ≥50 and diagnosed with colon cancer from October 2010 through January 2014 (N = 348). We used logistic regression with marginal standardization to model associations between health insurance status and study outcomes.

RESULTS: After adjusting for age, race, sex, and socioeconomic status, being continuously insured 5 years before diagnosis and through diagnosis was associated with a 20 (95% CI, 8-33) percentage-point increase in prevalence of screen detection. Screen detection in turn was associated with a 15 (95% CI, 3-27) percentage-point increase in early-stage diagnosis; however, nearly half (47%; n = 54) of the 114 screen-detected patients were still diagnosed at late stage (stage 3 or 4). Health insurance status was not associated with earlier stage at diagnosis.

CONCLUSIONS: For health insurance to effectively shift stage at diagnosis, stronger associations are needed between health insurance and screening-related detection; between screening-related detection and early stage at diagnosis; or both. Findings also highlight the need to better understand factors contributing to late-stage colon cancer diagnosis despite screen detection.

PMID:33789522 | DOI:10.1177/0033354921999173