Breast Cancer Survival Rates Remain Stagnant for Black Women, Improve for White Women, Study Finds
Survival rates for black women diagnosed with advanced breast cancer have not improved over the last two decades, despite advances in research and treatment, while survival rates for white women have steadily improved over time, according to a study presented on Sunday at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago, USA Today reports (Szabo, USA Today, 6/4).
For the study, lead researcher Sharon Giordano of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and colleagues studied survival rates of 15,438 breast cancer patients between 1988 and 2003. The women were identified from the National Cancer Institute database and had an average age of 62. Researchers divided the women into three time period groups and found that between 1994 and 1998, the median survival for black women was 16 months, compared with 22 months for white women.
From 1999 to 2003, the median survival rate was 17 months for black women and 27 months for white women. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the rates were fairly similar at 20 months for white women and 17 months for black women. The study did not examine the cause of the disparity (Steenhuysen, Reuters, 6/3).
Giordano said that blacks, who are less likely than whites to have health insurance, might have less access to costly, effective new treatments. In addition, studies have suggested that black women might be more likely to develop types of cancers that do not respond to new treatments. Further, black women might be less likely to be screened for cancer, Otis Brawly, director of the Georgia Cancer Treatment Center, said.
He added that black women also are more likely to receive inadequate health care and decline aggressive therapies (USA Today, 6/4). Giordano said the "big unanswered question" is the reason for the disparity, adding, "What's of most concern is that [the survival disparity is] increasing rather than diminishing over time" (Ackerman, Houston Chronicle, 6/4).
NPR's "News & Notes" on Thursday included a discussion with Giordano about the study (Chideya, "News & Notes," NPR, 6/7). Audio of the segment is available online.