Blacks Older Than Age 65 Less Likely To Receive Recommended Cancer Treatment

Armen Hareyan's picture

Racial disparities persist in cancertreatment, with black patients older than 65 "consistently lesslikely" than their white counterparts to receive the recommendedtreatment, according to a study published on Monday in the journalCancer, Reutersreports. For the study, YaleUniversity School of Medicine researchers examined cancertreatment for more than 143,000 U.S. residents with lung, breast,colon, rectal or prostate cancer who were treated from 1992 to 2002under Medicare.

The largest disparities were seen in treatmentof lung, colon and rectal cancers, according to the study.Researchers found that among people with early-stage lung cancer,blacks were 19% less likely to have tumors surgically removed thanwhites. Blacks with rectal cancer were 27% less likely than whites toundergo additional chemotherapy after having a tumor surgicallyremoved, and blacks with colon cancer were 24% less likely to receivechemotherapy than whites after surgical removal of a tumor, accordingto the study. Among those with breast cancer who had a lumpectomy,blacks were 7% less likely than whites to get radiation therapy.Black men diagnosed with prostate cancer were 11% less likely thanwhites to receive surgical or radiation treatment, the studyfound.


Lead researcher Cary Gross said, "What we foundwas that the racial disparities did not change during that 10-yeartime interval." Gross said possible factors for the disparitieswere blacks having less access to care; higher rates of certainchronic conditions among blacks, which can complicate cancer therapy;and distrust of the medical establishment among blacks.

OtisBrawley, chief medical officer of the AmericanCancer Society, said, "This sort of thing has been a problemin the United States for a long, long time," adding, "Ithink individual racism likely accounts for a small amount of it, butnot a large amount. What I would refer to as institutional orsocietal racism accounts for a much larger component of it"(Dunham, Reuters, 1/7).

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