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Racial Disparities Still Seen in Use of Breast Cancer Treatments
Date:12/5/2012

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Black women with breast cancer are less likely than their white peers to benefit from improved surgical techniques used to treat their disease, according to a new study.

After examining five years of data, researchers in Houston found black women were 12 percent less likely than white women to undergo less invasive procedures for staging breast cancer, such as sentinel lymph node biopsy. They advised that these improved techniques should be more widely used.

In a sentinel lymph node biopsy, the first lymph node (gland) to which cancer cells are most likely to spread is identified, surgically removed and checked to see if cancer cells are present.

The study findings were scheduled for presentation Wednesday at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

"These findings are an example of the need for continued improvements in disseminating national practice guidelines for breast cancer to surgeons and other breast cancer providers in all of our communities," Dr. Dalliah Mashon Black, an assistant professor of surgery in the department of surgical oncology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, said in a news release from the American Association for Cancer Research.

"When we think of disparities, it doesn't only mean that patients might be undertreated, but they could be overtreated with unnecessary and more radical procedures," Black added.

In conducting the study, the researchers examined Medicare data from 2002 to 2007 on more than 31,000 women aged 66 or older. Of these women, nearly 1,800 were black, just under 28,000 were white and about 1,650 were of another or unknown race.

The investigators found that 62 percent of black women underwent sentinel lymph node biopsy. Meanwhile, 74 percent of white women had this less invasive procedure. Although the use of this type of biopsy increased every year for all of the women, dispariti
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