Impact of racial differences in medical care on breast cancer survival: Findings from a large nationwide and retrospective cohort study

Zhannat Nurgalieva, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Background: No studies have attempted to determine whether nodal surgery utilization, time to initiation and completion of chemotherapy or surveillance mammography impact breast cancer survival. Objectives and Methods: To determine whether receipt of nodal surgery, initiation and completion of chemotherapy, and surveillance mammography impact of racial disparities in survival among breast cancer patients in SEER areas, 1992-2005. Results: Adjusting for nodal surgery did not reduce racial disparities in survival. Patients who initiated chemotherapy more than three months after surgery were 1.8 times more likely to die of breast cancer (95% CI 1.3-2.5) compared to those who initiated chemotherapy less than a month after surgery, even after controlling for known confounders or controlling for race. Despite correcting for chemotherapy initiation and completion and known predictors of outcome, African American women still had worse disease specific survival than their Caucasian counterparts. We found that non-whites underwent surveillance mammography less frequently compared with whites and mammography use during a one- or two-year time interval was associated with a small reduced risk of breast-cancer-specific and all-cause mortality. Women who received a mammogram during a two-year interval could expect the same disease-specific survival benefit or overall survival benefit as women who received a mammogram during a one-year interval. We found that while adjustment for surveillance mammography receipt and physician visits reduced differences in mortality between blacks and whites, these survival disparities were eliminated after adjusting for the number of surveillance mammograms received. Conclusions: The disparities in survival among African American and Hispanic women with breast cancer are not explained by nodal surgery utilization or chemotherapy initiation and chemotherapy completion. Surveillance mammograms, physician visits and number of mammograms received may play a major role in achieving equal outcomes for breast cancer-specific mortality for women diagnosed with primary breast cancer. Racial disparities in all-cause mortality were explained by racial differences in surveillance mammograms to certain degree, but were no longer significant after controlling for differences in comorbidity. Focusing on access to quality care and post treatment surveillance might help achieve national goals to eliminate racial disparities in healthcare and outcomes.

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Recommended Citation

Nurgalieva, Zhannat, "Impact of racial differences in medical care on breast cancer survival: Findings from a large nationwide and retrospective cohort study" (2012). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3552926.