Black women at risk of breast cancer may face a disadvantage because of racial disparities in healthcare, a small new study suggests.
Ohio State University researchers interviewed 30 white and 20 black women at high risk for breast cancer due to family history and other factors.
The investigators found that black women were less likely than whites to have had genetic testing, to take cancer-protecting medications, or to have had or consider having their breasts or ovaries removed as a preventive measure.
"African-American women faced additional burdens at every step along the risk-management journey," lead author Tasleem Padamsee and colleagues said in a university news release.
For example, 67 percent of white women said they or a relevant family member had undergone genetic testing, compared with just 20 percent of black women.
Such racial disparities have been identified in previous studies, but this study is the first to examine the reasons for those disparities, according to the researchers.
They found that black women were less aware of their options and had less access to information about breast cancer prevention. Only 15 percent of black women had seen a specialist for their breast health, compared with 70 percent of the white women, according to the study. The results were recently published in Ethnicity & Health.
Health disparities are deeply rooted in social factors such as poverty, education and racism, said Padamsee, an assistant professor of health services management and policy.
Solutions to these issues are complex and long-term, she noted. But for now, she said, it's important to inform clinicians about the need to provide risk-management information to all patients and refer women at high risk of breast cancer for genetic testing and specialist care.
"All health care providers could be educated about the relevance of risk information and risk-management options for African-American women, and the current disparities in provision of this information across race," the researchers wrote.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on breast cancer prevention.
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