Breast Cancer Diagnoses, Survival Varies by Race, Ethnicity

The gist: A recent study found that a breast cancer patient’s race and ethnicity might affect whether they are diagnosed at an early stage. Race and ethnicity might also affect how long a patient survives after a stage I diagnosis.

“Among nearly 375,000 U.S. women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, the likelihood of diagnosis at an early stage, and survival after stage I diagnosis, varied by race and ethnicity, with much of the difference accounted for by biological differences, according to a study in the January 13 issue of JAMA.

“In the United States, incidence rates of breast cancer among women vary substantially by racial/ethnic group. Race/ethnicity and sociodemographic factors may influence a woman’s adherence to recommendations for clinical breast examination, breast self-examination, or screening mammogram and the likelihood of her seeking appropriate care in the event that a breast mass is noticed. A growing body of evidence suggests that biological factors may also be important in determining stage at diagnosis (i.e., the growth rate and metastatic potential of small-sized breast cancer tumors may vary between women due to inherent differences in grade and other or unknown pathological features), according to background information in the article…

“The authors write that much of the difference in diagnosis and survival could be statistically accounted for by intrinsic biological differences such as lymph node metastasis, distant metastasis, and triple-negative behavior of tumors…

” ‘Access to the use of genetic or molecular markers to guide choice of targeted therapy and reduce the costs of care can be made more equitable. For women with triple-negative disease, access to prompt diagnosis and initiation of chemotherapy can be lifesaving because these tumors metastasize early. Closing the survival gap will only occur once health care leaders initiate system changes that improve access to high-quality care along with a more comprehensive study of breast cancer biology through inclusion of a substantial number of minority patients in ‘omics’ research and in clinical trials.’ “