Educational differences in healthcare use among survivors after breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancer – a SEQUEL cohort study

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Background: Many cancer survivors experience late effects after cancer. Comorbidity, health literacy, late effects, and help-seeking behavior may affect healthcare use and may differ among socioeconomic groups. We examined healthcare use among cancer survivors, compared with cancer-free individuals, and investigated educational differences in healthcare use among cancer survivors. Methods: A Danish cohort of 127,472 breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancer survivors from the national cancer databases, and 637,258 age- and sex-matched cancer-free individuals was established. Date of entry was 12 months after diagnosis/index date (for cancer-free individuals). Follow-up ended at death, emigration, new primary cancer, December 31st, 2018, or up to 10 years. Information about education and healthcare use, defined as the number of consultations with general practitioner (GP), private practicing specialists (PPS), hospital, and acute healthcare contacts 1–9 years after diagnosis/index date, was extracted from national registers. We used Poisson regression models to compare healthcare use between cancer survivors and cancer-free individuals, and to investigate the association between education and healthcare use among cancer survivors. Results: Cancer survivors had more GP, hospital, and acute healthcare contacts than cancer-free individuals, while the use of PPS were alike. One-to-four-year survivors with short compared to long education had more GP consultations (breast, rate ratios (RR) = 1.28, 95% CI = 1.25–1.30; prostate, RR = 1.14, 95% CI = 1.10–1.18; lung, RR = 1.18, 95% CI = 1.13–1.23; and colon cancer, RR = 1.17, 95% CI = 1.13–1.22) and acute contacts (breast, RR = 1.35, 95% CI = 1.26–1.45; prostate, RR = 1.26, 95% CI = 1.15–1.38; lung, RR = 1.24, 95% CI = 1.16–1.33; and colon cancer, RR = 1.35, 95% CI = 1.14–1.60), even after adjusting for comorbidity. One-to-four-year survivors with short compared to long education had less consultations with PPS, while no association was observed for hospital contacts. Conclusion: Cancer survivors used more healthcare than cancer-free individuals. Cancer survivors with short education had more GP and acute healthcare contacts than survivors with long education. To optimize healthcare use after cancer, we need to better understand survivors’ healthcare-seeking behaviors and their specific needs, especially among survivors with short education.

Original languageEnglish
Article number674
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number1
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the Danish National Clinical Quality Cancer Databases for access to their data: the Danish Breast Cancer Cooperative Group Database, the Danish Prostate Cancer Database, the Danish Lung Cancer Registry, and the Danish Colorectal Cancer Group Database.

Funding Information:
This research was funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation (number NNF18OC0052543), the Danish Cancer Society Scientific Committee (number R269-A15811) and Helsefonden (number 20-B-0434).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).

    Research areas

  • Breast cancer, Colon cancer, Healthcare use, Lung cancer, Prostate cancer, Social inequality, Survivorship

ID: 372709629