Breast Cancer Treatment Delays at an Urban Safety Net Hospital Among Women Experiencing Homelessness


Disparities in outcomes for vulnerable women is an ongoing problem. Homelessness and breast cancer treatment outcomes is understudied. This is a descriptive study exploring types of homelessness and treatment delays at an urban safety net hospital providing care to a vulnerable patient population.This study is a retrospective chart review of homeless female patients diagnosed with breast cancer between January 1, 2000 and December 31, 2014. Data for this study were acquired from the hospital cancer registry and electronic medical record. All demographic characteristics, time to treatment and factors related to delays to treatment were analyzed descriptively, reporting frequencies and proportions. The total number of individuals analyzed was 24. All except two subjects were delayed to treatment (≥ 30 days from diagnosis to treatment). Most women in this cohort were categorized as chronically homeless (46%) with the rest categorized as transitionally (29%) or episodically (12%) homeless. The majority of subjects (70%) were Black, non-Hispanic. All except one subject were publicly insured (71% Medicaid; 12% Medicare) or uninsured (8%). Regardless of type of homelessness, most subjects were either 30–60 or 60–90 days delayed. Those who were chronically homeless experienced significantly more delays to first treatment (56% of those who were delayed 30–60 days and 57% of those who were delayed 60–90 days; p value 0.006) than those who were episodically or transitionally homeless. Significant delays and barriers to breast cancer treatment exist among women experiencing homelessness. Further studies to improve breast cancer care for homeless women are warranted.

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Correspondence to Naomi Y. Ko.

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Festa, K., Hirsch, A.E., Cassidy, M.R. et al. Breast Cancer Treatment Delays at an Urban Safety Net Hospital Among Women Experiencing Homelessness. J Community Health 45, 452–457 (2020).

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  • Homeless
  • Breast cancer
  • Treatment delay
  • Safety net hospital