Boston Breast Cancer Equity Coalition
Eliminating racial disparities in breast cancer outcomes in Boston

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Racial Disparities in Breast Cancer Care: What we know and what we can do

Rachel Freedman, MD, MPH, of the Breast Oncology Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute has predominantly focused her research on racial disparities in breast cancer care. Dr. Freedman presented key components of her own research as well as published studies by other experts relative to breast cancer prevention, screening, treatment, and outcomes across racial and ethnic groups. 

Key Findings:

  • Black women have a lower incidence by a higher mortality rate for breast cancer
  • Evidence reflects that screening rates and stage of diagnosis don't seem to be the major problem contributing to the disparities between Black and White women
  • Evidence suggests that Black women have lower rates of treatment, experience more delays in care, and are less likely to adhere and/or complete a full treatment regimen
  • Patient factors, provider factors and systemic factors all seem to contribute to lower rates of completed primary therapy among Black women
  • The literature reflects that social factors such as education, poverty, demographics, and socio-economic status impact cancer risk and contribute to lower rates of treatment for Black women with breast cancer
  • In addition, behavioral factors such as physical activity and nutrition were linked to other co-morbid conditions including obesity that have proven to increase cancer risk
  • One highlighted article, Freedman et al (2011), demonstrates that Black women have more limited knowledge of their cancer characteristics, such as stage, grade, and HER2 status, compared to White women, which may have an impact on whether and to what extent Black women receive or complete treatment
    • Best practices for intervention models were highlighted and included in patient navigation programs and case management strategies that help reduce time from diagnosis to resolution and streamline treatment throughout the continuum of care
Sharon Bak