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It has long been known that Connecticut has higher incidence rates of breast cancer in women and men than most of the nation. But perhaps even more surprising is the fact that in Fairfield County, barriers to preventative care and late-stage treatment persist for those lacking insurance.

“Even in this day of the Affordable Health Care Act we still have patients who are uninsured – patients who can’t afford to pay their deductibles or premiums or even their co-pays,” said Mark Melendez, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon with offices in Fairfield, Shelton and Greenwich.

Melendez, also a member of the Connecticut board of directors for the Susan G. Komen Foundation – the largest organization dedicated to ridding breast cancer – recently presented findings from Komen’s “2015 Community Profile: An Assessment of Breast Cancer in Connecticut,” at a press conference at the state capitol in Hartford on Feb. 29. The study detailed not only the state’s unusual high rates of breast cancer, but also the socioeconomic factors that skew treatment and access.

“We can say we are among the top five states in the United States with a high incidence of breast cancer,” Melendez said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2012 Connecticut ranked fifth in the nation for incidence rates of breast cancer at 136 per 100,000. This rate was only slightly less than Massachusetts and Washington with 137 cases per 100,000 and closely trailing the most breast cancer ridden states of Hawaii and South Dakota with 140 and 141 cases per 100,000, respectively.

From 2008 to 2012, Fairfield County had the most cases of breast cancer throughout the state with New Haven County closely behind. No other county in the state came close to the incidence rates of the two counties, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

“The first question people ask is ‘Why?’” Melendez said. Continue reading…

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