Background: The general health maintenance and follow-up of breast cancer survivors has not been well-studied. In a population-based sample we sought to investigate the health practices of breast cancer survivors and to compare rates of screening to women with no history of breast cancer.
Methods: Subjects were participants of the medical expenditure survey in the years 1996 and 1998, years for which information on screening were available. We used a matched cohort design. Breast cancer survivors aged 40 and older were matched (on age and race/ethnicity) to women with no breast cancer history. We performed logistic regression to estimate the odds of receiving appropriate health care services in breast cancer survivors versus women with no breast cancer history. In addition, we examined demographic and socioeconomic differences between breast cancer survivors who reported appropriate screening and survivors who had inadequate screening.
Results: A small minority of breast cancer survivors report inadequate mammography (18%) and clinical breast exam (12%) follow-up. A significant portion of breast cancer survivors report inadequate screening for Pap smear (40%), general physical exam (GPE) (30%) and flu shot (33%). The odds of receiving appropriate screening were higher in survivors versus matched women for mammography, clinical breast and cholesterol screening. There were no differences for other screening. Across all health maintenance and screening practices, breast cancer survivors who did not receive appropriate screening were less likely to have private insurance, to be married and to be above the mean income level, though these differences were non-significant.
Conclusions: Although survivors report high levels of screening, a small minority of women report inadequate mammography and clinical breast exam follow-up which is concerning given their risk of recurrence and second primary breast cancer. Additionally, a significant portion of survivors report inadequate screening for general health maintenance issues. Demographic and socioeconomic factors were associated with lower screening rates. However, the deficits in screening among breast cancer survivors appears to be smaller compared to women in the general population.