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Poorer Women Discriminated Against in Health Issues: Survey

According to statistics released by the charity Cancer Research UK, poor women have it worse, even in the field of health//.

The study looked at nearly 13, 000 women from less affluent areas such as Northern and Yorkshire regions and found that not only are poorer women treated differently when it comes to diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, they also have lower survival rates of the disease.

The British Journal of Cancer study found that in the case of cancer therapies, affluent women tended to opt for lumpectomies while the poorer preferred mastectomies. One reason was the higher cost involved in the former. Not only did it include higher costs, it was also accompanied by more number of trips to the doctor for radiation and chemotherapy.

On the other hand, mastectomies were a one-off treatment that did not involve further time – consuming treatments or costs.

The study also found that more than 22 percent of women from deprived backgrounds did not receive surgery, compared with just over 13 percent of more affluent women.

Part of the reason for this disparity was due to cancer victims from poorer regions being detected at a later stage, but the researchers also found that these women were also more likely to have other health problems which made them unfit for surgery, or to turn down the option.

Another sorry finding was that more affluent women were likely to be referred to a specialist within 14 days as compared to a longer period for poorer women. In addition ,poorer women were less likely to be given radiotherapy and had lower five-year survival rates.

Says lead researcher Professor David Forman, from Leeds University: "Part of the problem we have identified may be based on the fact that women from a more deprived background are diagnosed when the disease is more advanced. This means that treatment decisions are more complex."

While Forman said that polices to encourage ear lier diagnosis could have some effect in settling this disparities, he also opined that other complex factors, such as patient choice, probably also played a significant role.

Around 42,000 women are diagnosed each year with breast cancer and recent statistics predict that almost two thirds of all women newly diagnosed with breast cancer are now likely to survive for at least 20 years.

Says Dr. Rosemary Gillespie of the charity Breast Cancer Care: "The persistence of inequalities in treatment and outcomes highlights that key messages about breast health and screening are still not reaching those in deprived communities who need them."
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