Ethnic and racial disparities exist in the timely diagnosis of breast cancer in under-resourced health centers. These findings are reported in new research from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Featured in the January issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, the study analyzed data from more than 900 diverse patients to learn about the barriers they encountered to receiving a timely mammography screening and follow-up treatment. The data was obtained from the Breast Cancer Care in Chicago study, where 411 black, 397 white and 181 Hispanic women diagnosed with breast cancer were interviewed and their medical records reviewed.
The data used in this study was collected between 2005 and 2008.
"Low-income and racial and ethnic minority patients, largely residing in medically underserved communities on the south and west sides of the city, often received their care in under-resourced hospitals and public health clinics," said Richard Warnecke, professor emeritus of epidemiology, public administration and sociology. "On the other hand, residents of the more racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse north and east sides were more likely to receive their care at academic and high volume health centers.
"Time is of the essence, particularly for young women of color who are at greater risk for aggressive breast cancer when compared with white women. A patient's delay in diagnosis and treatment often results when the referral hospitals are not properly equipped to assist them and they may have to be referred several times before diagnostic resolution," said Warnecke, who is also a researcher at the UIC Institute for Health Research and Policy and the University of Illinois Cancer Center.
At the time of the research, Chicago had 11 full-service or academic facilities that were designated a BICOE, but many patients received mammograms and diagnostic follow-up at unaccredited facilities, Warnecke said.
Undergoing a mammogram at an accredited health care facility predicted a timely breast cancer diagnosis, but such access was usually dependent on a referral by the patient's primary care provider.
Not only were minority women often forced to travel outside of their neighborhoods when recommended for diagnostic follow up and treatment, but their choice of health care centers may have been limited by insurance, a primary factor of access to care, Warnecke said.
"Understanding the referral process and referral decisions made by primary care physicians could improve access to care among underserved women," Warnecke said. "The findings of this study strongly support exploring policies and incentives to increase referrals to Breast Cancer Center of Excellence facilities in Chicago and to assist facilities in obtaining BICOE designation."
Co-authors on the paper are Richard Campbell, Ganga Vijayasiri, Richard Barrett and Garth Rauscher of UIC. Like Warnecke, Rauscher is also a member of the UI Cancer Center.