It is well-established fact that the incidence of breast cancer is largely dependent on the race of a particular individual. This observation also holds good in the treatment of breast cancer, as it has now been found that decisions regarding treatment are largely dependent on the other family members. This could probably account for the observation of significant racial differences in the management of breast cancer.
Furthermore, older Hispanic breast cancer patients tend to be more inclined to their family while taking decisions regarding treatment, compared to women of any other ethnic origin. Surprisingly, these women were more likely to opt for mastectomy rather than breast conserving surgery.
More than 257 patients with a breast cancer diagnosis were included in the study. These patients were above 55 years of age and had their breast cancer diagnosed three to nine months before they were included for the study. The study participants were interviewed about different aspects of breast cancer treatment. The main focus of the study was to identify the influence of race, ethnicity and professional medical communication on breast cancer treatment.
Differences in perception of the final decision maker were found among the breast cancer patients studied. Hispanic women (90%) most commonly identified a family member as the decision maker when compared to African-American women and whites who pointed out to their physician.
The results of the present study correlate with other studies that have highlighted a disparity in the breast cancer treatment based on race and ethnicity. White women with breast cancer tend to live longer compared to either Hispanic or African American women as they are more likely to opt for breast conserving surgery.
It is also probable that the observed differences could be due to the different socioeconomic background or other specific factors related to the tumor. Additionally, the impact of patient-physician communication on the treatment decision is one area that is often ignored.
"The study's findings that families may actually make the final breast cancer treatment decision, particularly in older Latinas regardless of acculturation, is an important new contribution to the literature on cancer decision-making. The study results are of relevance to a growing number of cancer care providers. Physicians should acknowledge patients' family members as potential key participants in medical decision-making, rather than merely as translators and providers of social support ", concluded the study authors.