Breaking Down Disparities to Improve Breast Cancer Outcomes
By BCRF | January 13, 2017
By BCRF | January 13, 2017
Breakthroughs in early detection, treatment and care have extended lives and the quality of life for many breast cancer patients. Not everyone, however, benefits equally from these medical advances. Many factors contribute to disparities in the prevalence (all existing cases), incidence (new cases), mortality (deaths) and survivorship of breast cancer across populations. These include age, disability, education, ethnicity, gender, geographic location, income, or race1 . Below are three distinct areas in which disparities exist among those diagnosed with breast cancer.
In the U.S., the number of cases of breast cancer are approximately equal among white women and African American women, but black women are more likely than white women to die from their disease 2. Some of this difference can be explained by access to health care and other factors related to socio-economic status, but we have also learned that there are biological differences in the types of breast cancer in black women vs. white women. For instance, black women are more likely to be diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, an aggressive form of the disease for which no targeted therapies currently exist. Read more about the incidence of breast cancer in black women in our earlier blog.
Women younger, or older, than the typical age of a breast cancer diagnosis (less than 40 and over 70) also experience disparities in outcome and quality of life that can be exacerbated by one or more factors listed above. A young woman with breast cancer may be trying to build a career, start a family or find a life partner, all of which can be delayed or impacted by breast cancer surgery, treatments, and long term side effects of those treatments. An older woman may be dealing with other chronic illness or disability that could affect her choice or duration of therapy, access to clinical trials or mobility and access to regular care.
Approximately one percent of breast cancers (about 2500 cases) occur in men3 who then find themselves in an unfamiliar world of pink and uncomfortable diagnosis of a “woman’s disease.” Breast cancers in men are often more advanced when diagnosed, because neither they nor their doctors think of breast cancer when there are unusual symptoms in the chest area. As in female breast cancer, young black men are more likely to die from breast cancer than young white men4.
BCRF is committed to ending all breast cancer disparities and to improve outcome and quality of life for all women and men diagnosed with breast cancer. In 2016 BCRF invested over $2 million in new projects supporting disparities research in basic biology, prevention, treatment, quality care and survivorship.
Highlights include, research to:
 Cancer Health Disparities Fact Sheet. National Cancer Institute (https://www.cancer.gov/about-nci/organization/crchd/cancer-health-dispa…)
 Breast cancer statistics, 2015: Convergence of incidence rates between black and white women, DeSantis et al. CA Cancer J Clin. 2016 Jan-Feb;66(1):31-42
Cancer Facts and Figures, 2017 http://www.cancer.org/research/cancerfactsstatistics/cancer-facts-and-f…
(http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancerinmen/detailedguide/breast-can…) Last updated 9/5/2016
 Sineshaw,HM; Freedman, RA; Ward, EM; Flanders,WD, Jemal, A. J Clin Oncol 33:2337-2344, 2015
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