Understanding multiple causes of racial disparities in breast cancer is essential

Racial disparities in the treatment and outcome of breast cancer patients arise from a combination of biological, social and financial causes. Understanding how these complex factors influence interactions between patients and the medical community is key to reducing the gaps in treatment and mortality between racial groups, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina.

Understanding multiple causes of racial disparities in breast cancer is essential click to enlarge Stephanie Wheeler, PhD, MPH

In a paper published in The OncologistIcon indicating that a link will open an external site., Stephanie Wheeler, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of health policy and management at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health; Katherine Reeder-Hayes, MD, MBA, and Lisa Carey, MD, of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, outlined how issues such as poor access to care and health education, a lack of financial resources, problematic patient-provider interactions and structural barriers within the health system itself play a larger role in creating health disparities than previously understood.

Since evidence suggests that patients across racial and ethnic groups who receive the same standard of care have equivalent short and long-term outcomes of care, health care providers should focus on reducing disparities in access to treatment, and education/outreach about evidence-based treatments. Because of the multiple disciplines involved in cancer care, policy makers should focus on improving systems to ensure an equal distribution of clinical expertise and health infrastructure across patient populations.