Breast cancer screening; travel distance; abnormal mammogram


Public Health


Timely detection and follow-up of abnormal cellular changes can aid in early diagnosis of breast cancer, thus leading to better treatment outcomes. However, despite substantial breast cancer screening initiatives, the proportion of female breast cancer cases diagnosed at late stages remains high. Distance to screening clinics may affect access to care, particularly for women living in impoverished areas with limited means of reliable transportation. Utilizing breast cancer screening data collected by the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program between 1996 and 2010, we examined the effect of travel distance to the clinic from which women received breast cancer screening tests on stage of diagnosis.

The proportion of abnormal mammograms in White women (1.6%) was higher than in Black women (1.1%) or Hispanic women (0.5%). The average distance traveled to a clinic was also farthest among White women (6.7 mi) than for Hispanic (5.3 mi) or Black women (4.4 mi). Distance to a clinic was significantly associated with increased odds of having abnormal results. When distance to clinic was controlled for, the observed disparity in odds of having an abnormal mammogram between White and Black women was no longer statistically significant. Individual and neighborhood sociodemographic characteristics were significantly associated with distance to clinic, but were not associated with increased odds of having an abnormal mammogram, controlling for distance to the clinic.

Findings showed that individual and neighborhood sociodemographic characteristics are directly and indirectly associated with abnormal mammogram results, and that distance to a clinic may mediate, in part, the effects of individual characteristics and neighborhood disadvantage on the probability of having an abnormal mammogram.

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