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Study finds racial disparities exist in radiation therapy rates for early stage breast cancer
Date:12/14/2009

said Thomas Buchholz, M.D., professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology and the study's senior author. "While there are some breast cancer patients, such as those over age 70, with significant co-morbidities for whom radiation would not be appropriate, this discrepancy remained consistent when specifically looking at patients under the age of 70."

Perhaps the most unexpected aspect of the study, said Smith, was the magnitude of the disparity in specific areas of the country: the Pacific West, 72 (whites) vs. 55 percent (blacks); East South Central, 72 (whites) vs. 57 percent (blacks), and the Northeast, 70 (whites) vs. 58 percent (blacks).

However, in some parts of the country - the Mountain West (76 percent vs. 74 percent) and the North Central Midwest (74 percent vs. 72 percent) - there was virtually no discrepancy in radiation rates between whites and blacks. That level of geographic non-disparity was also surprising and of great benefit for further research, said Smith.

"Until further research is conducted, we may only speculate about the underlying reasons why black and white women are not receiving radiation at the same rate. We don't know if fewer black women are receiving radiation simply because it is not offered to them, because they decline the treatment, or perhaps because they are unable to complete a whole course of treatment due to other health problems. These questions will be important subjects of future study. As a medical community, we need to identify and eliminate any obstacle prohibiting all women from receiving necessary care for their breast cancer."

Smith's plans for follow up research include evaluating the difference in radiation rates results in a difference in mortality. She also plans to investigate whether radiation patterns correlate with other illnesses secondary to breast cancer care, and if there are disparities in other types of cancer treatment.

Smith hopes that results from the
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Contact: Laura Sussman
lsussman@mdanderson.org
713-745-2457
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Source:Eurekalert

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