Black Women With Breast Cancer Meet Delays in Treatment

We are twice as likely to wait for surgery or chemotherapy. 

Posted: 04/26/2013 05:08 PM EDT

It’s a well-known fact that while African-American women are less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, we are still more likely to die from the disease than our white counterparts.

Two recent studies attempt to find out why this is the case.

In the first study, researchers from the University of California in Irvine, California, looked at data from more than 9,000 teens and older women with breast cancer. What they found was incredibly troubling: Black women and Latinas were twice as likely to wait for treatment (six weeks or more since diagnosis) compared to white women, who were most likely treated closer to diagnosis (two weeks or less).

In many cases, the sooner one starts treatment, the better their survival rate.

Ninety percent of women treated two weeks or less after diagnosis reached their five-year survival mark, compared to only 80 percent of women who started treatment later, reported HealthDay News.

Lead researcher Hoda Anton-Culver told HealthDay, "Losing 10 percent of women in that age group is a big loss," she said. “Before the cancer, their life expectancy was decades more.”

A second study conducted at University of Toledo Medical Center found that women on Medicaid were more likely to have larger tumors in their breasts at diagnosis than women with private insurance. They also found that 60 percent of women on Medicaid with breast cancer had to have a mastectomy — surgery that removes all of the fatty tissue from the breast as a way to treat breast cancer — compared to 39 percent of women with private insurance. The study’s authors stated that earlier mammograms for women on Medicaid could make a difference in lowering their rates of surgery.

Past studies show that African-American women tend to be diagnosed with more aggressive forms of the cancer that are harder to treat with surgery and radiation therapy.

Learn more about breast cancer and Black women at the Black Women’s Health Imperative.

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(Photo: Izabela Habur/Getty Images)

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