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Treatment Delays Vary Between Black and White Women

Posted 7/30/2013

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  This is distressing. We have long known that there are outcome differences between black and white Americans who are diagnosed with breast cancer. A suggested reason is delay in accessing treatment, less in starting treatment once there has been a diagnosis. Reading this report, it is quickly apparent that both getting to a diagnosis in the first place and then proceeding with recommended treatment is slower for black women than for white. The exception seems to be women who opt for immediate reconstruction with mastectomy, and then women of both races often wait more than thirty days for treatment (surgery in this case). Those waits are obviously related to the difficulties of scheduling two surgeons' times, not to other psychosocial or financial problems.

  This study from the University of North Carolina looked at 601 women between 29 and 74 who were diagnosed with breast cancers. A treatment delay was defined as waiting for more than thirty days after diagnosis for treatment (usually surgery, but whatever is planned first) to occur. The most common reasons for the delay were household size and losing a job for white women, and the type of treatment for black women. This is unacceptable for both groups. We know that, although breast cancer is rarely a medical emergency, it is important for treatment to proceed in a timely fashion, and we need to better organize, plan, and staff our systems to make that happen.

  Here is a summary from and a link to read more:

Black and White Women Delay Treatment for Different Reasons

Doctors recommend starting treatment as soon as possible after breast cancer is diagnosed. Timely treatment
reduces the risk that the cancer will spread and increases the chances for survival. Still, sometimes women delay treatment for a number of reasons, including cost and scheduling. But if treatment is delayed too long it can affect survival.
New research from the University of North Carolina suggests that the factors that affect treatment delays are
different for black and white women.
The study was published in the July 3, 2013 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. Read the
abstract of “Determinants of Breast Cancer Treatment Delay Differ for African American and White Women.”
The study looked at 601 women between the ages of 20 and 74 who had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
The women were all part of a larger study, the Carolina Breast Cancer Study Phase III, which is an ongoing study
looking at 5 and 10 year survival rates in women diagnosed with breast cancer.


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