A patient's ability to pay for private healthcare can be a significant barrier to the early diagnosis of cancer, a new study has found.
Researchers from the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) and the Irish Cancer Society found that patients who could not afford private healthcare often faced long waiting lists, meaning that there can be a potentially fatal delay before they receive cancer treatment.
Dr Helena Daly said that there was a "significant discrepancy" between waiting lists for public and private patients in Ireland, the Irish Health website reports.
Private patients generally wait just two weeks for assessment, while public patients usually wait at least 12 weeks.
The study also revealed that, while 87 per cent of GPs' private patients have direct access to mammography services, only 48 per cent of public patients benefit from the same level of service.
Also, only 13 per cent of public patients have direct access to a CT scan, compared to 72 per cent of private patients, the study found.
Dr Claire Collins, research director at the ICGP, said that there was an "urgent need" for the public to be more aware of possible symptoms and the benefits of early detection and cancer treatment.
"Inequity of access and waiting times for public hospital services between public and private patients must also be eliminated," she added.
What's better? Private or NHS healthcare?