NPR's Michelle Andrews writes that privately insured people with cancer were diagnosed earlier and lived longer than those who were uninsured or were covered by Medicaid, according to two recent studies.

Both studies, published online in the journal Cancer in August, relied on data from the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results program. SEER tracks cancer incidence and survival in the United States.

The two cancers generally progress very differently. Glioblastoma multiforme is very aggressive; patients generally don't live much more than a year following diagnosis and the five-year survival rate is less than 5 percent. Conversely, testicular cancer responds well to chemotherapy even if it has spread to other parts of the body. The five-year survival rate overall is 95 percent.

But regardless of cancer type, patients with private insurance had a survival advantage.

“We were expecting that the uninsured would do worse than insured patients, but we didn't expect that Medicaid patients would do significantly worse than [privately insured] patients,” said Dr. Wuyang Yang, a research fellow at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who co-authored the study about patients with brain tumors.