Thanks to breakthrough diagnostic technologies, we can now catch the early warning signs of breast cancer much faster than ever before. Ultrasound tests, mammograms, biopsies, and magnetic resonance imaging can help identify the presence of malignant cells and check whether they have spread to other parts of the body.
However, a new study shows significant racial disparities in how quickly women with breast cancer get a positive diagnosis. In findings presented in the Journal of Digital Imaging, a team of researchers from Emory University estimates that Black women are twice as likely to experience delays in getting a breast cancer diagnosis compared to white women.
This diagnostic delay can result in a 1.6-fold hike in mortality rates from breast cancer in Black women. These numbers point to the presence of significant barriers in multiple stages of the breast cancer diagnosis process, from primary care and genetic screening to access to diagnostic services.
There is a 31 percent mortality rate from breast cancer among Black women in the US, the highest among all ethnic groups.
The study involved a cohort of over 700 women who had been screened for breast cancer before receiving a diagnosis. The researchers analyzed the time it took for women to undergo a diagnostic evaluation, how long it took to get a biopsy, and the total delay.
They found that Black women, particularly those of lower socioeconomic statuses, experienced more delays, leading to poorer health outcomes. Delays of over 45 days were also linked to women being diagnosed with later-stage breast cancer tumors.
“Our results suggest that race is the most pronounced driver of delays in the diagnosis of screen-detected breast cancer,” conclude the authors. The personal and structural barriers in Black women receiving timely care need to be addressed urgently.