© 2005-2012 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). All rights reserved worldwide.
May 14, 2005A new study reports that black women are more likely to experience delays in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. These delays are significant because other studies have found that postponing treatment for three months or more can lower the five-year survival rate by 12%.A new study reports that black women are more likely to experience delays in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. These delays are significant because other studies have found that postponing treatment for three months or more can lower the five-year survival rate by 12%."While this study confirms results of other smaller studies, we were very surprised by the degree of clinical delay experienced by black women with breast cancer when compared with other women," said Sherri N. Sheinfeld Gorin, PhD, Associate Professor at Columbia University in New York City and the study's lead author.In this study, investigators analyzed the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER)-Medicare linked database (an extensive source of information about the health care of older women) for women age 64 and older who were diagnosed with primary breast cancer between 1992 and 1999. They identified 49,865 women with breast cancer, of whom 2,982 were black.Results show that 20.9% of black women had a diagnosis delay (delay between screening and diagnosis) of one to two months compared with 14.3% of white women, and 23.5% of black women had a diagnosis delay of more than two months compared with 14.3% of white women. In addition, 29.6% of the black women had a treatment delay (delay between diagnosis and treatment) of more than one month.Even after considering other factors that could contribute to these delays, black women were 89% more likely than other women to have a diagnostic delay of more than one month, 58% more likely to have a treatment delay of more than one month, and 81% more likely to have total clinical delay (diagnosis plus treatment), regardless of the stage of their cancers. Researchers attributed these differences to biological and genetic factors, cultural differences, and health care access issues."While we need to encourage women to make doctor's appointments right away and follow up with necessary care, health care providers also need to be more involved in helping women make arrangements for such care," said Dr. Gorin.What this means for patientsWomen who find a suspicious lump, receive suspicious findings on a mammogram, or receive positive biopsy results for breast cancer are encouraged to follow up with a cancer doctor as soon as possible. Breast cancer is treatable, and the five-year survival outlook is positive for most women, especially if treatment is started soon after diagnosis.