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No Change in Cancer Care 'Race Gap' Since 1990s

Blacks still less likely to get needed treatment compared with whites, study finds

MONDAY, Jan. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Black cancer patients continue to be significantly less likely than white patients to receive treatment for lung, breast, colon and prostate cancers, new research finds.

The study also showed that few gains have been made in the provision of cancer care to Medicare beneficiaries since the early 1990s.

In an effort to find out whether cancer care has improved since 1992, a team of Yale University researchers analyzed data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Medicare database. They examined records of care provided for breast, colorectal, lung or prostate cancer from 1992 to 2002.

The team specifically examined data relating to treatments that were known to be provided differently according to race to find out whether those differences had changed. They compared data from almost 7,800 cases of colon cancer, close to 1,800 cases of rectal cancer, more than 11,00 cases of lung cancer, more than 40,000 cases of breast cancer and more than 82,000 prostate cancer cases.

After reviewing the results, the researchers found that there had been almost no improvement in the proportion of patients getting treated for most cancers. They also found that the differences in care provision according to race had not changed between 1992 and 2002. Racial disparities existed even among the smaller subset of patients who saw a doctor before their cancer diagnosis.

The bottom line: "Efforts in the last decade to mitigate cancer therapy disparities appear to have been unsuccessful," the authors wrote.

They recommend further efforts to address racial disparities with an emphasis on overall quality improvement.

The study is published in the Jan. 7 online edition of Cancer and was expected to be in the journal's Feb. 15 print issue.

More information

To learn more about cancer and cancer care, visit the American Cancer Society.

-- Madeline Vann

SOURCE: Cancer, news release, Jan. 2, 2008

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