(HealthDay News) — Approximately 20 percent of Medicare patients with melanoma face delays in getting surgical treatment, according to a new study published online April 8 in JAMA Dermatology.

Researchers evaluated more than 32,000 melanoma patients covered by Medicare. The patients were diagnosed with melanoma by a skin biopsy from 2000 through 2009. The researchers looked at the time that elapsed before the tumor was removed.

“We found around one in five Medicare patients experience a delay greater than 1.5 months and that 8 percent had surgery after three months,” study author Jason Lott, M.D., who conducted the research while a postdoctoral fellow in dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., told HealthDay. The delays were more common than expected, Lott said. Still, “these results are somewhat encouraging,” he added. “Close to three-quarters are getting surgery within six weeks.”

Delays were least common for patients whose melanoma was biopsied and excised by a dermatologist, compared to other physicians, Lott found. However, he said the message from this finding should not be to only see a dermatologist for melanoma care.

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