NOVEMBER 19, 2012, 2:28 PM
Using large national cancer registries, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found vast racial disparities in breast cancer severity, treatment and mortality.
Although black women get mammograms as often as white women, by the time of diagnosis the disease has spread to other organs in 45 percent of blacks, compared with 35 percent of whites, the researchers found. Black women fare worse at each phase of management: follow-up of abnormal findings, starting treatment and completing it.
Black women have a slightly lower incidence of breast cancer than white women, but their death rate from the disease is 41 percent higher.
Even among women with similar insurance, black women have longer intervals between diagnosis and the start of treatment.
Quality of the health care is one reason for the disparity. Biology is another. Black women are more likely to have types of tumors that have a poorer prognosis.
“It’s a complex problem, but there are clearly avoidable components of this that we can address and resolve: the issues related to health care quality,” said an author of the report, Dr. Marcus Plescia, director of the division of cancer control and prevention at the C.D.C. “It’s time to step forward and say that this disparity is unacceptable.”