Comparing Stage at Diagnosis Among Patients with Breast Cancer Served by Military and Civilian Medical Care Systems

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Health Services Research and Managerial Epidemiology



Breast cancer (BC) remains one of the top causes of cancer-related deaths in women in the United States, and little is known about the differences in access to health care between military and civilians. This study compared the differences in access to health care between military and civilian female patients with BC. In particular, this study examined whether patients with BC, in an equal access health care system such as the military, are diagnosed at an earlier stage of disease process in comparison to the patients with BC in the civilian health care system.


Independent variables included military versus civilian care and demographic variables. Dependent variable was the stage of cancer at diagnosis. This cross-sectional study of 2 groups included data from 2198 women with BC (439 military and 1759 civilian) for years 2004 through 2008. Multiple logistic regression was used to analyze the data.


There was no difference in the early BC stage (0, I, and II) diagnosis prevalence rate between the military and the civilian groups (95% confidence interval [CI], P = .15). The logistic regression analysis indicated that both the health systems had equal performance with respect to the stage at diagnosis indicator but found that black patients had higher odds of being in the late stage (III and IV) BC group at diagnosis (1.62 OR, 1.14-2.30 CI, P = .0068) than white patients.


Although no difference was found between the performance of the 2 health systems in the early (0, I, and II) versus late stage (III and IV) at diagnosis indicator, this study further confirms the existence of racial disparities in late-stage BC regardless of whether the patient was diagnosed in the civilian or military health system. More research is needed to further investigate the potential explanations of racial disparities other than just differences in access to health care.