Black and Hispanic women are more at risk due to breast cancer, a recent study has shown. It appears these women tend to diagnosed too late with more aggressive tumors, and their medical care is often substandard.
The findings, published on October 13 in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, resulted after reviewing medical records belonging to more than 100,000 women from 18 U.S. cancer registries. Demographic data, and also information such as health insurance status, cancer stage and tumor size were all taken into account.
Experts have discovered that African-American women are approximately 40 to 70% more susceptible to being diagnosed with late stage breast cancer, in comparison with their white counterparts. They also tend to have larger and more aggressive malignant tumors, and the medical care they are offered is around 30 to 60% less adequate that that received by white patients.
“We saw a consistent pattern of late diagnosis and not receiving recommended treatment for African-American women across all breast cancer sub-types”, explained study lead author Lu Chen, researcher in the Public Health Sciences Division at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Hispanic women are also 30 to 40% more at risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer at stage 2 or 3, and their treatment is 20% to 40% less reliable than the average assistance white women get.
As far as Asian and Pacific Islander female subjects were concerned, the study results were mixed. For example, Filipino and Pacific Islander women are around 20 to 60% more likely be diagnosed with advanced cancer, but on the other hand Japanese and Chinese women are 30 to 40% less exposed to the risk of being given this diagnosis.
In the last decades, medical breakthroughs have made it possible for malignant tumors to be diagnosed at earlier stages, and cancer treatments have provided hope for better prognosis. However, it appears that these beneficial effects are mostly discernible among white women, while female patients pertaining to ethnic minorities have yet to see this change for the better.
For instance, whereas white women have a 90% five-year breast cancer survival rate, among black women this percentage is at 79%, similar to the prognosis given to white women in the 1970’s.
These negative outcomes, which admittedly weren’t entirely surprising to researchers, may be linked to the fact that the later the disease is diagnosed, the slimmer the chances of survival. Since breast cancer among African-American patients is usually detected too late due to insufficient screenings, the prospects of treating it are significantly reduced.
This idea has been supported by past research as well. For instance, a study published in 2014 in the journal Cancer Epidemiology showed that disparities in breast cancer survival when it comes to black versus white patients had increased to 40% by 2009, after being estimated at 17% in the 1990’s.
Findings which appeared in the American Journal of Public Health in 2006 have also proved that white patients receive much earlier breast cancer diagnosis than subjects who are black, American Indian, Hawaiian or Hispanic.
It appears however that late detection isn’t the only one contributing to these discrepancies. According to Chen, there are also socio-economic factors which influence these outcomes, such as major differences in terms of access to health care and quality of treatment.
Prior studies have shown racial inequality when it comes to medical assistance, as African-American women tend to receive inferior care and support, which leads to worse prognosis when it comes to almost every condition or disease.
This recent study has come to the same conclusions, revealing that African-American women and also those belonging to the Hispanic ethnic group tend to receive subpar treatment for all breast cancer sub-types. In comparison, Pacific Islanders and Asians are usually given similar medical assistance to the one granted to white patients.
It appears therefore that although progress has been made to some extent when it comes to breast cancer detection and treatment, greater efforts should still be undertaken, so that patients can fully take advantage of medical advances, regardless of their ethnicity and race.
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