Breast Cancer Treatment And Diagnosis: Why Race Matters?

Breast Cancer Awareness
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A new study conducted by the researchers from Ohio State University suggests African-American women who are at risk of breast cancer are less likely to pursue life-saving preventive care than white women.

The study, which was published in the Ethnicity & Health journal, included in-depth interviews with 50 women (20 black and 30 white) who were considered at high risk of breast cancer according to their family history and other factors.

The research team has found that high-risk black women were less likely to undergo genetic testing, consider removing their ovaries or breasts as a preventive measure, take medications than white women - disparities observed in some previous studies as well. For instance, 67 percent of the white women participants said they had undergone genetic testing, while only 20 percent of black women participants said they had similar testing.

This new study is reportedly a breakthrough and could help researchers explain the reason behind racial differences. The finding revealed that black women were less aware of their options, wherein only three of them (15 percent) had seen a specialist for their breast health. For white women, 70 percent of them consulted with a provider with special training.

Tasleem Padamsee, the lead author of the study, said health disparities among blacks and whites are usually common in different types of cancer and other illnesses. But, this new research is the first one that checked the differences in prevention decision-making and could explain why high-risk black women make different choices compared to white women with the same risk.

Researchers have found that black women experienced differences in three separate "layers of information" - contributing to their decisions about managing cancer risk. Those layers include perceptions of breast cancer risk and prevention; genetic testing and prophylactic treatment; and general information about managing breast cancer risk.

Padamsee explained they wanted to understand how women make choices, and what influences their choices. She said women were not only making different choices, but they actually had different experiences, so all high-risk women should receive the information they need regardless of their races.

According to Padamsee, disparities rooted from social factors such as education, poverty, as well as race. Thus, an immediate response regarding these inequities should be a particular focus on educating health care providers regarding the importance of providing risk-management information to all patients and referring high-risk women for genetic testing and specialist care.

But, Padamsee also said disparities observed in the study might not be profound in the general population since the participants involved in the research were actively engaged in health care and willing and able to participate in research.

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