Black women with breast cancer face greater financial strain

A diagnosis of breast cancer is devastating for any woman, but a new study reveals most black patients pay a much higher price to fight it than their white peers.

Two years after a breast cancer diagnosis, 58 percent of black women were still dealing with a backlog of treatment costs compared with 39 percent of white women, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Numerous rounds of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, prescription drugs, and even surgery, can cost up to $140,000, depending on the stage in which the cancer is caught.

Dr Stephanie Wheeler, the study’s lead author and an associate professor in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, told Daily Mail Online that while a significant number of black and white women report a burden, it is consistent for black women  often because they are unable to meet costs even before being diagnosed.

She suggests that something needs to be done to supplement the cost of these women who are fighting for their lives because delay or refusing treatment could affect their odds of survival.

A new study has shown that black women with breast cancer face a greater financial strain than white women, with 58 percent of black women reporting a negative financial impact in comparison with 39 percent of white women

Researchers looked at data from the Carolina Breast Cancer Study, which aims to understand why the fatality rate is higher in African-American women.

Currently the team is examining how treatment decisions, access to care, and financial or geographic barriers impact breast cancer outcomes.

For this portion of the study, researchers looked at 1,265 white women and 1,229 black women younger than age 50 who were diagnosed with breast cancer in North Carolina between 2008 and 2013.

They noted that the black women were more likely to have other health complications such as diabetes or obesity as well as face more socioeconomic challenges such as lower than average household incomes and no insurance.

Close to half of the women – 48 percent – said they experienced negative financial impact from breast cancer, although the rates were much higher among black women.

Additionally, 24 percent of black women compared to 11 percent of white women reported that cost caused them to delay or refuse recommended treatment.

‘Financial hardship plays a role in delays, discontinuation and omission of treatment, and thus may correlate with racial disparities in breast cancer death,’ Dr Stephanie Wheeler said.

‘With cancer care costs rapidly increasing, culturally appropriate strategies are urgently needed to address this problem.’

Additionally, 24 percent of black women compared to 11 percent of white women reported that cost caused them to delay or refuse recommended treatment

Because of the rising costs, early detection may be key regardless of race, according to a 2016 study published by the American Health Drug Benefit. Within a year after diagnosis, treatment costs – including for oral chemotherapy, inpatient and outpatient breast surgery and prescribed medication – were:

  • Stage 0 – $60,637
  • Stage I/II – $82,121
  • Stage III – $129,387
  • Stage IV – $134,682

New breast screening guidelines have recommended that African-American women be evaluated for breast cancer risk no later than age 30.

Breast cancer incidence rates among African-American women rose in the 1980s as  mammogram appointments increased. However, rates continued to increase at a rate of 0.5 percent per year between 1986 and 2012.

Black women tend to be diagnosed with breast cancer at later stages than white women as well as at younger ages. The median age is 58 for black women in comparison with 62 for white women.

According to the latest Cancer Facts Figures for African Americans report from the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most diagnosed cancer among African-American women with 30,700 estimated new cases in 2016.

It was the second-leading cause among black female deaths with an approximate 6,300 deaths.

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