Race disparity in breast cancer mortality studied

October 22, 2008 3:03:05 PM PDT
The disparity between races when it comes to breast cancer is dramatic. That's the conclusion of a Chicago-area group that studied both white and African-American women suffering from breast cancer.

There had been some thought that some ethnicities may be predisposed to breast cancer. But a local organization may have dispelled that thought with findings last year that singled out Chicago for a high mortality rate for African-American women. This year, their findings furthered last year's results.

Early detection of breast cancer can save lives. Those getting regular screenings have a better chance of catching and treating the cancer. In Chicago, one organization says African-American women have not gotten the needed treatment in time, and as a result, there is a dramatic disparity in breast cancer deaths.

"The gap in Chicago is twice that, more than twice that of the United States and more than five times that that we see in New York City. So this is uniquely bad," said Dr. David Ansell, Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force.

The Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force announced what they say is the most recent mortality data on breast cancer from 2005. The task force reports that 19 percent of white women with breast cancer died, while 41-percent of African-American women died, meaning African American women died 116 percent more than white woman from breast cancer. The task force recommends better access to screening and improved quality of mammograms.

"Get people to reflect on the quality of care, actually measure it and these differences can be reduced or eliminated," Ansell said.

Angela Walker is a breast cancer survivor who lost her mother to the same illness. She's the secretary of a survivor's organization called Sisters Network and a member of the task force.

"Makes me reflect on, how was it for my mom? What type of treatment was she getting? What made the difference?" Walker said.

Sharlane Garnett, another task force member, has survived breast cancer twice. She now volunteers to help women find services nearby and encourages women to take care of themselves.

"Education for women is most important. If they can be educated on their mammograms and breast cancer and they catch it early, the survival rate's great," said Garnett.

The task force gave grants to two organizations Wednesday to encourage outreach in minority communities. And the task force is creating a quality consortium on breast cancer, where institutions will provide information on the accuracy of screening in an effort to maintain standards in quality everywhere.


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