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The objective of this study was to estimate the burden of cancer in counties affected by Hurricane Katrina using population-based cancer registry data, and to discuss issues related to cancer patients who have been displaced by disasters.
The cancer burden was assessed in 75 counties in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi that were designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as eligible for individual and public assistance. Data from the National Program of Cancer Registries were used to determine three-year average annual age-adjusted incidence rates and case counts during the diagnosis years 2000–2002 for Louisiana and Alabama. Expected rates and counts for the most-affected counties in Mississippi were estimated by direct, age-specific calculation using the 2000–2002 county level populations and the site-, sex-, race-, and age-specific cancer incidence rates for Louisiana.
An estimated 23,549 persons with a new diagnosis of cancer in the past year resided in the disaster-affected counties. Fifty-eight percent of the cases were cancers of the lung/bronchus, colon/rectum, female breast, and prostate. Eleven of the top 15 cancer sites by sex and black/white race in disaster counties had >50% of cases diagnosed at the regional or distant stage.
Sizable populations of persons with a recent cancer diagnosis were potentially displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Cancer patients required special attention to access records in order to confirm diagnosisand staging, minimize disruption in treatment, and ensure coverage of care. Cancer registry data can be used to provide disaster planners and clinicians with estimates of the number of cancer patients, many of whom maybe undergoing active treatment.
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