African Americans, Hispanics wait longer for breast cancer treatment

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Breast cancer

A new report shows African American and Hispanic women wait long for breast cancer treatment, compared to whites.

The findings, say researchers, are important because early treatment is linked to improved survival. The study revealed Hispanic and African American women experience 30, 60 and 90-day delays compared to white women.

The study is published in the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved. Researchers analyzed data from the National Cancer Database, finding the link between race and breast cancer treatment delay among more than 250,000 women with stage I to stage III breast cancer, between 2003 and 2006.

Compared to 48.9 percent of white women, African Americans and Hispanics were more likely to have more advanced, stage II and III breast cancer at time of diagnosis - 62.4 59.3 percent respectively.


Stacey Fedewa, an epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society in Atlanta says, “I was surprised at how strong the associations between race and ethnicity and the risk of 60- and 90-day delays were." For African American women with private insurance 60-day delays were 76 percent higher compared to whites. Hispanics had a 57 percent higher risk of waiting for treatment.

Peter Ravdin, M.D., director of the Breast Health Clinic at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, notes breast cancer treatment is not an emergency, but clinicians should try to ensure treatment is started as soon as possible.

He says access to the health care system is sometimes an issue, "However, most women want to get a positive course of action started as soon as it is safe, and most health care teams try to see that such therapy starts as soon as all the information needed for treatment planning is available.”

Overall, the study showed 60 percent of patients begin treatment within 34 days. The researchers say delays in breast cancer treatment found among black and Hispanic women compared to whites means more work needs to be done to remove barriers that cause delays in starting cancer therapy.

Health Behavior News Service