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Many Black Women Refuse Breast Cancer Treatments
Date:5/22/2009

Poverty, fear play roles in skipping lifesaving therapies, researchers say,,,,

FRIDAY, May 22 (HealthDay News) -- Almost 25 percent of black women with advanced breast cancer refuse the chemotherapy and radiation treatments that could save their lives, a new study finds.

Black women have almost twice the rate of advanced breast cancer as white women do, largely because the disease is often diagnosed after it has already progressed. In addition, some black women have misconceptions about cancer and are reluctant to seek medical help, the researchers said.

"We found in this study on locally advanced breast cancer, mainly done in black women, that almost a quarter of the patients [refused] chemotherapy and radiation therapy that are the standard of care for stage 3 breast cancer," said lead researcher Dr. Monica Rizzo, an assistant professor of surgery in the Division of Surgical Oncology at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.

Why these women balk at treatment is unclear, Rizzo said. "We looked at martial status, as well as religious background, of those women and, unfortunately, we were not able to find any clear identifier," she said.

Things that may be associated with their refusal of treatment are fear of the medical system and poverty, which makes it difficult to get to the hospital and get time off work for treatment, Rizzo said. In addition, cultural differences may also play a role, she said.

Rizzo noted many more blacks refuse breast cancer treatment than women from other populations.

The report is published in the May 22 online edition of Cancer.

For the study, Rizzo's team looked at the records of 107 women with advanced breast cancer reported in one inner city hospital from 2000 to 2006. About 87 percent of these women were black. Among these women, 29 percent had tumors that do not respond well to new targeted treatments.

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