It's long been known within the medical community that African-American women die more often from breast cancer than white women. IN fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says black women are 40 percent more likely to die of breast cancer than white women are. But a new medical study shows they may not be getting the most up-to-date treatments or have access to to the latest technology.
The study, from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, found that African American women with early stage, invasive breast were 12 percent less likely than Caucasian women with the same diagnosis to receive axillary sentinel lymph node (SLN) biopsy, a minimally invasive technique, years after the procedure had become the standard of surgical practice.
The study, presented at the 2012 CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, also found that those African American women who underwent the older, more invasive procedure, axillary lymph node (ALN) dissection, had higher rates of lymphedema.
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among American women, but the CDC's Ileana Arias told the AP recently that black women have "unacceptably high" death rates. She says they have the "highest death rates from breast cancer among all racial and ethnic groups."
SLN biopsy became accepted as standard of care for the staging of breast cancer in 2002 and the preferred practice by 2007 when the National Comprehensive Cancer Network and other national organizations endorsed the minimally-invasive procedure. The older technique, ALN dissection, is associated with a number of complications, including lymphedema. Black estimates that approximately 75 percent of newly diagnosed breast cancer patients are eligible for SLN biopsy.
"With this research, we wanted to determine if new surgical innovations were being incorporated fairly amongst different patient populations," says Dalliah Mashon Black, M.D., assistant professor in MD Anderson's Department of Surgical Oncology. "This study looks at trends over time, comparing appropriate patients who all would have been candidates for the SLN biopsy to see how the new procedure was implemented in African Americans and Caucasians."
Black is also the study's first author.
The researchers found that 62 percent of African American patients underwent the SLN biopsy, compared to 74 percent of the Caucasian patients.