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Black Women Wait Longer for Breast Cancer Diagnosis, Treatment

Insurance status didn't make a difference, study finds

THURSDAY, April 22 (HealthDay News) -- Black breast cancer patients have to wait longer for diagnosis and treatment than white patients, regardless of insurance status, a new U.S. study finds.

Researchers from the GW Cancer Institute looked at 581 breast cancer patients who were examined between 1997 and 2009 at seven hospitals and clinics in Washington, D.C. and found that:

  • Insured black women and uninsured white women waited more than twice as long to be given a definitive breast cancer diagnosis than insured white women.
  • Lack of health insurance slowed the speed of diagnosis among white patients, but having insurance did not lead to quicker diagnosis among insured black women.
  • Overall, black patients waited twice as long as white patients to begin treatment after breast cancer diagnosis.

"We thought having health insurance would even the field and that insured black women would have had the same rate of evaluation as insured white women, but that was not the case in our study," Heather Hoffman, an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, said a news release from the school.

The findings highlight the need for improved outreach and other types of assistance for black patients.

"Black women should be the focus of breast cancer screening outreach and follow-up because they experience greater delays in diagnosis and in treatment than white women, regardless of insurance status," Hoffman said. "We need to determine what other barriers contribute to diagnosis and treatment delays in insured black women and all uninsured women."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about racial disparities in cancer screening and treatment.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: George Washington University, news release, April 16, 2010

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