A new study finds that Black women still receive less treatment for breast cancer, even after income and insurance are considered. The findings were extensively reported in a recent article in Businessweek.

The racial gap in breast cancer treatment has been examined by researchers for years, and findings still show that Black women are less likely to get recommendations for breast cancer treatment than White female patients.

A study out of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston argues that financial factors like economic and accessibility to medical insurance doesn’t completely explain the racial gap. The institute found that, even in light of these considerations, racial disparities in breast cancer treatment persist.

The study, which was published Monday, October 11 in the medical journal Cancer, includes adult women of all ages, and those with insurance, according to Dr. Rachel Freedman, a medical oncologist at Harvard Medical School.

The study tested information on 662,000 White, Black and Hispanic women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer from 1998 to 2005. Freedman examined data from the U.S. National Cancer Database, a registry that records patients’ treatment, outcomes, insurance, and socioeconomic status.

One of the clear limitations of the study is that the database shows racial gaps within itself, consisting of 85 percent of White, only 10 percent of Black women, and a mere 5 percent of Hispanic women.

What’s more, the study revealed that more than 46,000 women were excluded from the chemotherapy analysis due to missing data. These missing patients are potentially numbers of Black women whose treatment, or lack thereof, could have been examined.

Even among a small testing pool, the Boston study found that Black women were 9 percent less likely than White women to get mastectomies, breast-conserving surgery or additional treatments. Black women are also 10 percent less likely to get hormonal therapy and 13 percent less likely to get chemotherapy.

These gaps continued after researchers took insurance coverage and socioeconomic status into consideration.

Freedman says, “Further investigation is needed to figure out which other actors are meaningful.”

Doctors commenting on the study, advise women to research answers from credible sources, like the American Cancer Society.

Experts also advise women to write a list of questions before visits to the doctor, and to take a family member of friend who can help them to better understand the options. Additional advice suggested is for patients to think about taking a tape recorder so that important information can be replayed at a later time.

Stay tuned to CLUTCH for coverage of the latest developments of breast cancer research.

CLUTCH and the Denise Roberts Breast Cancer Foundation supports Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

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