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Black Women Avoid Breast Reconstruction Surgery After Mastectomy

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Black women are 47% less likely than other women to undergo breast reconstruction after having a mastectomy, according to a study published in the November issue of Archives of Surgery, HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report reports. Undergoing breast reconstruction surgery immediately after having a mastectomy has several advantages, including aesthetic, psychosocial well-being and cost-effectiveness, according to the Johns Hopkins University researchers who conducted the study.

Researchers led by Gedge Rosson, an assistant professor of plastic surgery, analyzed data on 17,925 black and white women who had a mastectomy between 1995 and 2004; 27.9% of the women had breast reconstruction immediately after their mastectomy.

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The researchers also analyzed data on the communities where the women lived. Researchers found that being older, living in inner cities with high black populations and having a high school education or less all were factors indicating likeliness to not have reconstruction surgery. Wealthy women, those with more education and those who did not live in inner cities were more likely to have immediate reconstruction surgery, according to the study.

Researchers noted that even white women living in poor black neighborhoods were less likely to undergo the procedure. Rosson said, "The community a patient lives in actually does influence, in some way, the access they have to breast reconstruction. We need to learn more about why that is." He added, "People have noticed that African-Americans have fewer referrals to plastic surgeons, and if they do have a referral, they have a lower rate of going to those referrals. Strangely, even once they see the plastic surgeon, reconstruction seems to be offered with less frequency."

Researchers believe that more education programs are needed to inform women of the benefits of breast reconstruction and a particular emphasis is needed in racial and ethnic minority communities (Reinberg, HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, 11/17).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.