Timely care after an abnormal mammogram among low-income women in a public breast cancer screening program

Arch Intern Med. 2010 Mar 22;170(6):521-8. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2010.22. Epub 2010 Mar 16.


Background: Since 1990, the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (BCCEDP) has funded breast cancer screening and diagnostic services for low-income, underinsured women. Case management was implemented in 2001 to address barriers to follow-up after an abnormal mammogram, and free treatment was introduced in 2004. However, the effect of these policies on timeliness of care has not been empirically evaluated.

Methods: Among 2252 BCCEDP participants in Massachusetts during 1998 through 2007, we conducted a time-to-event analysis with prepolicy-postpolicy comparisons to examine associations of case management and free treatment with diagnostic and treatment delays (>60 days and >90 days, respectively) after an abnormal mammogram.

Results: The proportion of women experiencing a diagnostic delay decreased from 33% to 23% after the introduction of case management (P < .001), with a significant reduction in the adjusted risk of diagnostic delay (relative risk [RR], 0.65; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.53-0.79) that did not differ by race and ethnicity. However, case management was not associated with changes in treatment delay (RR, 0.93; 95% CI, 0.80-1.10). Free treatment was not associated with changes in the adjusted risk of diagnostic delay (RR, 0.61; 95% CI, 0.33-1.14) or treatment delay (RR, 0.77; 95% CI, 0.43-1.38) beyond improvements associated with case management.

Conclusions: Case management to assist women in overcoming logistic and psychosocial barriers to care may improve time to diagnosis among low-income women who receive free breast cancer screening and diagnostic services. Programs that provide services to coordinate care, in addition to free screening and diagnostic tests, may improve population health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Early Detection of Cancer*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammography
  • Medically Uninsured / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data
  • Time Factors