Survival rates for breast cancer patients treated at the country’s largest private hospital appear to be better than those of patients attending public hospitals, according to the results of a new medical study.
Research by medical staff at Bon Secours Hospital in Cork found that the difference in survival rates among its patients diagnosed with early stage breast cancer compared to similar patients at the same stage of the disease in all hospitals in Ireland was “statistically significant”.
The study said the superior results were particularly marked in people with stage 3 of the disease – when the cancer has spread from the breast to lymph nodes near the breast.
Researchers from the hospital’s medical oncology department compared the medical records and five-year survival rates of patients diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer at Bon Secours Hospital between 2010 and 2015 with all breast cancer patients at similar stages of the disease registered on the National Cancer Registry of Ireland (NCRI) over a similar period.
The study, which is published by the Irish Journal of Medical Scienceslooked at the details of 514 patients with a median age of 60 who attended Bon Secours Hospital in Cork during the period.
It revealed that the combined survival rate for patients in stages one to three of the disease after five years was 97% at Bon Secours compared to 90.4% for patients from all hospitals, including private patients treated in the hospitals. public hospitals.
In the more advanced but still early stage 3, the difference was even more pronounced, with a national survival rate of 71.5% but 89.5% in patients at Cork Hospital.
“Our results indicate a disparity in the equity of cancer survival between private health care and other treatment centers,” said one of the report’s lead authors, Michael Killian.
However, he said more research was needed to interrogate the findings and examine how various factors might differ between private and public health care.
The study suggested that potential reasons for the disparity included differences in socioeconomic status and patients’ care-seeking behaviors.
“Differences in the extent or timeliness of access to therapies may also contribute,” Killian said.
Commenting on the findings, Stephen McMahon, from the Irish Patients Association, said they demonstrated how there was “health care apartheid in Ireland”.
“If you can afford to pay for private health care, you get faster access to care based on your needs. So should public patients,” McMahon said.
He claimed the Bon Secours study further underscored the need for the “urgent roll-out of Sláintecare” which would end the two-tier system of Irish healthcare.
The findings support similar research conducted by the NCRI in 2019, which indicated that breast cancer survival was highest in private hospitals and slightly higher in designated cancer treatment hospitals compared to other public hospitals.
The NCRI found that patients were more likely to receive interventions such as surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy in private hospitals.
He suggested that the explanation for the better survival rates was due to the appropriateness or quality of treatment.
Another study found similar better outcomes for prostate cancer treatment in private hospitals.
Researchers at Bon Secours Hospital noted that an earlier study found that patients were much more likely to seek screening services for conditions such as breast and prostate cancer if they had health insurance. private.
They acknowledged that the role of private health insurance in diagnosis, treatment and survival is “somewhat controversial”.
“Patients without insurance are more likely to be from a lower socioeconomic class, an independent risk factor for poor survival, and are less likely to participate in screening programs,” the study adds.
However, Killian noted that private health insurance is neither a requirement nor a specific advantage over access to testing, suggesting that other factors such as education and seeking behaviors care could be at stake.