Breast Cancer Treatment Disparities Between Black, White Women in Georgia Exist Despite Health Insurance Status, Study Finds
Black women in Georgia newly diagnosed with breast cancer are less likely to receive adequate health care treatment than whites even when they have health insurance, according to a study presented on Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The study was conducted by HealthCore, a research subsidiary of WellPoint and led by Louise Short, director of HealthCore's Integrated Research Network, and Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. The study aimed to determine why black women have an increased risk of breast cancer and death from the disease.
Researchers analyzed claims data and medical charts of more than 3,000 Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia beneficiaries who were diagnosed with breast cancer between January 2000 and August 2005. BCBS is the parent company of WellPoint. The researchers found several factors that predicted worse outcomes for blacks, including being diagnosed at a younger age and later stage and having a lower prevalence of hormone-positive breast cancer, lower rates of hormone therapy for certain patients and higher prevalence of hypertension.
For years, researchers were under the impression that a lack of health insurance in part contributed to black women's breast cancer disparities, but the study "data shows that while health insurance is an important predictor of the quality of care an individual receives, it's not the only factor," Brawley said. He added that many black women might "not trust the system" and delay seeking treatment.
The study says that "culturally sensitive and targeted interventions must be developed to increase earlier detection of breast cancer in [blacks], increase the percentage of patients that receive hormonal therapy when it is indicated and include management of co-morbid conditions." Brawley said, "[W]e must work to improve care and outcomes among this population" (Hendrick, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6/2).
An abstract of the study is available online.