A new research points towards how African-American women who are at a higher risk of breast cancer are less likely than white women to pursue preventive care in trying to prove racial disparities in healthcare.
Speaking about the study, researchers from The Ohio State University said, "African-American women faced additional burdens at every step along the risk-management journey."
The research was published wrote in the journal Ethnicity & Health and included in-depth interviews with 50 women -30 white, 20 black- deemed at high risk of breast cancer based on family history and other factors.
Researchers found that high-risk black women were less likely to have genetic testing, take medications to protect them against cancer and to have or consider having their breasts or ovaries removed as a preventive measure.
This study is the first of its kind to help explain the reasons behind the racial differences. It showed that black women were less aware of their options and were at a disadvantage when it came to getting access to information about prevention.
Only three of the black women in the study, or 15 per cent, had seen a specialist for their breast health. Meanwhile, 70 per cent of the white women had consulted with a provider with special training.
Speaking about it, lead author Tasleem Padamsee said she expected differences by race, but this was the first study to look at differences in proactive prevention decision-making, and to drill down beyond those differences in an effort to explain why high-risk black women might make different choices than white women with the same risk.
Post analysing the feedback they received from study interviews and comparing it with preventive actions taken (or not taken) by those women, the researchers found that African-American women on the whole experienced differences in three separate "layers of information" that contribute to their decisions about managing cancer risk.
"We wanted to understand what women's experiences are like, how they make choices, and what influences those choices," said Padamsee, an assistant professor of health services management and policy and a member of Ohio State's Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Following the interviews, researchers zeroed in on trends that could help inform care provided to women in the future, prompting providers to acknowledge and look for ways to clear obstacles to lowering breast-cancer risk for patients. That might mean helping a woman with care for an elderly family member or for her children, assisting with transportation or working to find a way to get her in to see a specialist, she said.
The results of the study reveal the nuances of racial inequalities in health - the ways that structural, social and interpersonal inequalities combine to influence patients' choices.
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