Patients Who See Their Health Care Provider Regularly Lower Melanoma Mortality Rate
More patients than ever will have access to care covered by the Affordable Care Act. However, having access to care does not necessarily lead individuals to use the care that is available. A recent retrospective observational study presented at the Society of Investigative Dermatology’s annual meeting suggests that individuals who engage in their care significantly reduce the risk of dying from melanoma.
The study’s researchers reviewed melanoma cases of 251 Caucasian patients from 2001-2007. The patients’ average age was 60 (the age at which patients are typically diagnosed with melanoma), 158 were men, and 93 were women. The patients all had health insurance and were eligible for care in a health maintenance organization during the study period.
Researchers found that the risk of dying from melanoma was 70% lower among patients who had at least one visit with their family doctor or a specialist in the five years before they were diagnosed with the disease. When factoring in age, gender, socio-economics and co-morbidities, mortality decreased by 90% in patients who visited a specialist. “The patients in our study all had insurance and in theory all had the same equal opportunities for care. But they received different degrees of care. Some of that may have been at their direction. That is important, perhaps, with cancer prognosis,” says Melody Eide, M.D., MPH, a Henry Ford Hospital dermatologist and the study’s lead author.
Researchers also found that patients who underwent screening tests such as a colonoscopy or a fasting blood test also had a greatly decreased risk of death. “We found that regardless of their cancer stage at diagnosis, these patients who saw more specialists and had compliance with their fasting lipid panels and other screenings had a better prognosis,” Eide states. “This may suggest a role for the patient in improving their health by being engaged and prioritizing their care.” She continues, “We know that people are always going to have struggles in their lives. They’re going to have unreliable transportation, children that they’re caring for, co-pays that are too expensive to pay. What this study suggests is that these types of barriers may impact your prognosis for cancer if they impede your ability to make your medical care a priority.”
Image: Seattle Municiple Archives