It’s well known that people’s health is closely tied to what kind of medical care they can afford and access to it. That’s certainly true for those dealing with mesothelioma. That’s according to a study just published in the journal JAMA Network Open.
Researchers at the University of Miami School of Medicine looked at outcomes for almost 1,500 people diagnosed with operable malignant pleural mesothelioma. While people with this rare cancer, often caused by exposure to asbestos, face a grave prognosis, there have been advancements that can extend their lives and improve their quality of life.
Specialized care isn’t available to everyone
However, they need to be able to afford to take advantage of these advancements and to be able to get to the right doctors and medical facilities. The study’s lead author says that “mesothelioma patients who receive treatment in a timely fashion — and have access to specialized care, including surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy — have better outcomes. Unfortunately, many patients have poor access due to health disparities and geographical factors.”
Because mesothelioma is so rare, many oncologists don’t have any experience treating it. Fortunately for people in Pennsylvania, there are a number of medical facilities in the Northeast where it is treated more frequently (as well as on the West Coast and in the South).
Many of the patients the researchers looked at never had surgery, even though it (along with other treatments) can extend life expectancy. Instead, they were given options for palliative care.
Age, race, income and other factors make a difference in the level of care
The study’s author noted that “social determinants of health, including age, gender, race and income, may play a vital role in how patients are treated and explain some of the outcomes from our study.” Those with the worse outcomes tended to be older, low income, poorly educated and/or Black.”
Certainly, money can buy access to the best care – and the ability to travel to get it. That’s why anyone who has developed mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure by an employer or other at-fault party should explore their legal options to get the compensation they need to improve their length and quality of life.