The Cancer Divide: Tackling a Racial Gap in Breast Cancer Survival

“The Cancer Divide: Tackling a Racial Gap in Breast Cancer Survival.” by Tara Parker-Pope, The New York Times.

The cancer divide between black women and white women in the United States is as entrenched as it is startling. In the 1980s, breast cancer survival rates for the two were nearly identical. But since 1991, as improvements in screening and treatment came into use, the gap has widened, with no signs of abating. Although breast cancer is diagnosed in far more white women, black women are far more likely to die of the disease.

Over all, black women with a breast cancer diagnosis will die three years sooner than their white counterparts. While nearly 70 percent of white women live at least five years after diagnosis, only 56 percent of black women do. And some research suggests that institutions providing mammograms mainly to black patients miss as many as half of breast cancers compared with the expected detection rates at academic hospitals.

The gap in cancer survival cannot be explained away by biological differences in cancer between blacks and whites, researchers say. While African-American women are at greater risk of a more aggressive form of cancer known as triple negative, those cancers account for only about 10 percent of diagnoses.

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