Minority Women with Breast Cancer wait Longer for Diagnosis

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

According to findings presented at the Third American Association for Cancer Research Conference, minority women wait longer for a definitive diagnosis of breast cancer after abnormal test results compared to white women. The reasons are unclear to researchers, but highlight the need for clinicians to focus on timely follow-up of breast cancer screening among minority women.

According to Heather J. Hoffman, Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, “Health care professionals must stress follow-up with all non-Hispanic black and Hispanic women with breast abnormalities to assure they are diagnosed as soon as possible.”

The retrospective cohort study included 983 women examined for breast cancer between 1998 to 2009 at six hospitals and clinics in Washington, D.C. In the analysis, the researchers found that non-Hispanic black and Hispanic women with government or private insurance waited more than twice as long for a diagnosis of breast cancer, compared to non-Hispanic white women with insurance. Black women without insurance waited twice as long for a diagnosis compared to those with insurance.

Breast cancer diagnosis significantly delayed for insured Hispanic women

Hispanic women with health insurance were found to have the longest delay from the time of abnormal breast tissue discovery and diagnosis of breast cancer.


White women with abnormalities found on breast cancer screening received a diagnosis within 15.9 days. For Hispanic women, the wait was 51.4 days. For black women, diagnosis followed in 27.1 days.

Uninsured women were found to experience a greater delay in breast cancer diagnosis - 44.5 days for white women and, 59.7 days for black women. Hispanic women without health insurance received a diagnosis 66.5 days following abnormal breast cancer screening exam.

Dr. Hoffman says, “Non-Hispanic black and Hispanic women should be the focus of breast cancer screening outreach and follow-up since they experience greater delays in diagnosis than non-Hispanic white women, regardless of type of insurance. In particular, we need to investigate the barriers to rapid workup in insured non-Hispanic black and Hispanic women first and then investigate barriers in all uninsured women.”

Dr. Hoffman says the findings are surprising. “We thought having health insurance would even the field among all women. Insured women should have had the same rapid evaluation regardless of race and ethnicity.” Delay times in breast cancer diagnosis, found among insured minority women and for those that are uninsured in the study, highlights another ethnic disparity in health care that researchers say should be addressed.