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Minority Women’s Breast Cancer Treatment May Explain Poorer Outcomes

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poor outcomes more common for minority women with breast cancer George Doyle/Stockbyte/Thinkstock

Historically, research shows minority women, particularly blacks and Hispanics, are less likely than white women to obtain radiation treatment for their aggressive breast cancer.

Now a new study confirms the findings of previous studies showing that differences in treatment can contribute to poorer breast cancer outcomes for racial and ethnic women.

Prior research has shown that non-Hispanic black women have lower breast cancer survival rates relative to other racial and ethnic groups and researchers wanted to know why.

Differences in which treatment a woman receives is a significant factor to better or poorer breast cancer outcomes, but it may be only part of a broader explanation, said Abigail Silva, M.P.H. Silva is a Susan G. Komen Cancer Disparities Research trainee at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

Silva said that although radiation treatment decreases the risk for breast cancer recurrence and improves survival from the disease, minority women with aggressive breast tumors were more likely to receive chemotherapy instead.

Silva presented the new study results at the Fifth American Association For Cancer Research (AACR) Conference on The Science of Cancer Health Disparities, held in San Diego, CA Oct. 27-30, 2012.

Data from a population-based study of 397 non-Hispanic whites, 411 non-Hispanic blacks and 181 Hispanics patients with single invasive primary tumors indicated that minority women were less likely to start radiation treatment compared with non-Hispanic white women after breast conserving surgery .

The study showed only 79 percent of study participants eligible for radiation treatment actually got it.

Minority women were more likely to have aggressive (moderate-to high-grade) tumors and symptoms of breast cancer , such as a lump, a spontaneous clear or bloody discharge from the nipple or a change in appearance of the breast.

As a result, these women were more likely to undergo chemotherapy at the expense of beginning and completing radiation therapy.

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