Breast Cancer Coverage from Every Angle

Racial Disparities in Breast Cancer Prevention: Focus on Complexity of Gathering Information

By: Cordi Craig
Posted: Friday, January 25, 2019

Although health-care disparities between African American and white individuals are well known in various cancers, a recent study published in Ethnicity & Health reveals there may also be differences in proactive preventive decision-making, which center on how these women receive relevant information about preventive care options. The report suggests that high-risk African American women tend to receive less preventive care than their white counterparts, and one reason for that may be a difference in gathering layers of information, which play a key role in decision-making dynamics and assessment of risk-management choices.

“These groups of women are not just making different choices. They’re having different experiences,” Tasleem Padamsee, PhD, of The Ohio State University, Columbus, stated in an institutional press release. “Preventing cancer and lowering [the] risk of death from cancer requires that all high-risk women receive the information they need.”

The authors conducted 50 interviews with African American (n = 20) and white (n = 30) women at an increased risk of breast cancer based on a family history or other factors. The interviews demonstrated that perceptions of and decisions regarding risk-management behavior were significantly different between the two groups. These decisions seemed to center on three layers of information: “The layer most proximal to making risk-management decisions involves specific information about risk-management options; the middle layer involves general information about managing breast cancer risk; and the foundational layer involves personal perceptions of breast cancer risk and prevention,” the authors indicated.

More specifically, African American women tended to be less likely than white women to pursue genetic testing, take medications to protect against cancer, or undergo surgery to remove their breasts and ovaries. For example, 67% of white women reported that they or a relevant family member underwent genetic testing, compared with 20% of African American women. African American women also received less access to preventive information, with 15% seeing a specialist for breast health compared with 70% of white participants.

Disclosure: The study authors reported no conflicts of interest.

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