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Longer Waits for Non White Women After Abnormal Mammograms

by Daniel on March 28th, 2011

It’s as different as black and white.

African-American women have strikingly higher death rates from breast cancer than white women do: a 60% greater chance. Why? According to a new report, the time between an abnormal mammography reading and a diagnostic test is twice as long for non-white women than for white women. Non-white women (which included African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians) waited an average of 15 days, while white women waited only a week.

The October 1 issue of Cancer reported the discrepancies among white and non-white women in “Racial Differences in Timeliness of Follow-Up after Abnormal Screening Mammography.” The northern California study, led by Sophia W. Chang of the University of California at San Francisco, analyzed the records of 317 women who visited a mammography screening program in a mobile van in 1993 and 1994.

What’s causing the hold-up?

The study concluded that further research is necessary before determining exact causes, though several possibilities were discussed. Chang and colleagues noted that “patient-induced delay may be related to individual fears or anxieties,” and cited other studies that showed racial and ethnic differences in mammography.

Medical providers contributed to the wait in some cases, noted Chang. This may be a factor since non-white women may have visited “overburdened community and public health clinics” more frequently than did the white women. The study also cited potential language barriers between patients and health care workers.

Finally, the lack of easy access to health care may have influenced the non-white women. The research claimed that these women are more likely to have inadequate insurance, or none at all. Not having regular medical care could also contribute to the wait.

While the effects of these longer waits are unknown, the study claims the delay may be insignificant. Nonetheless, “the finding of racial/ethnic differences in our setting is worrisome,”

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