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BCS: Racial Disparity Seen in Post-Surgery Radiation Rates

Access to radiation therapy not responsible for higher mastectomy rates among rural women

THURSDAY, Sept. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Among breast cancer patients treated with surgery, follow-up radiation is more commonly performed in whites than in blacks. But rates of follow-up radiation are not significantly different in rural and urban women, suggesting that access to radiation therapy is not responsible for the higher mastectomy rates observed among rural women, according to research presented at the 2008 Breast Cancer Symposium held Sept. 5 to 7 in Washington, D.C.

In one study, Grace Smith, M.D., of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and colleagues analyzed 2003 Medicare data on women aged 66 and older who received treatment for early stage, new-onset breast cancer. They found that white women were significantly more likely than black women to receive radiation therapy follow lumpectomy (74 versus 65 percent) and observed the largest racial disparities in the East South Central region, the Pacific West and New England.

In a second study, Lisa K. Jacobs, M.D., of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and colleagues analyzed medical records on almost 80,000 patients in the 2006 Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results database and the 2004 Area Resource File. They found that rates of follow-up radiation after lumpectomy were almost identical among rural and urban women (80 percent and 81 percent, respectively). They also found that rates of follow-up radiation after mastectomy were nearly identical (38 percent and 39 percent, respectively).

"The results of this study indicate that we need to identify and correct the obstacles that are causing these disparities, and work to increase awareness about the benefits of radiation therapy following lumpectomy among breast cancer patients," Smith said in a statement. "We don't know if fewer black women are receiving radiation therapy because it is not offered to them, because they decline the treatment, or perhaps because they are unable to complete a whole course of treatment."

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