Black and Hispanic breast cancer survivors are less likely to receive surveillance mammograms on time compared with white women, according to a study.
The research was published online on May 13, 2021, by the Journal of Cancer Survivorship. Read the abstract of “Racial/ethnic disparities in use of surveillance mammogram among breast cancer survivors: a systematic review.”
About surveillance mammograms
After a diagnosis of early-stage breast cancer, you and your doctor will develop a plan to monitor you for any signs that the breast cancer has come back, called recurrent breast cancer by doctors.
In most cases, your screening plan includes a mammogram at least once a year and possibly more frequent screening or screening with other types of imaging, such as MRI or ultrasound.
Mammograms to monitor for recurrent breast cancer are called surveillance mammograms by many doctors.
About the study
Previous studies have suggested that women who completed treatment for early-stage breast cancer didn’t receive surveillance mammograms as recommended by national guidelines. But many of these studies didn’t consider people’s race or ethnicity.
The researchers who did this study wanted to know if there were differences in rates of timely surveillance mammograms between white women and women of other races and ethnicities.
This study was a meta-analysis. A meta-analysis combines and analyzes the results of many earlier studies. In this case, the researchers reviewed 30 studies looking at surveillance mammograms among breast cancer survivors sorted by race and ethnicity. The studies were published between 2000 and 2019.
Fifteen of the studies found that Black, Hispanic, and Asian women were less likely to receive a timely surveillance mammogram after breast cancer treatment than white women.
This difference was statistically significant, which means that it was because of differences in race/ethnicity rather than due to chance.
Thirteen of the studies included Black women in their analysis. All of these studies found that Black women were less likely to receive surveillance mammograms than white women. This difference also was statistically significant.
Eight of the studies included Hispanic or Latin American women in their analysis. Six of these studies found that Hispanic or Latin American women were less likely to receive surveillance mammograms than white women. This difference also was statistically significant.
Four of the studies included Asian women in their analysis. All of these studies found that Asian women were less likely to receive surveillance mammograms than white women. This difference also was statistically significant.
“This is a major concern,” the researchers wrote, “especially considering the rising racial/ethnic disparity in breast cancer outcomes in the [United States]. Mammograms are highly effective in detecting breast cancer recurrences; therefore, further efforts are needed to improve minority non-White women’s adherence to breast cancer surveillance care.”
The researchers noted that a number of factors may contribute to the differences in surveillance mammogram rates among different racial and ethnic groups, including:
- inconsistent use of breast cancer survivorship guidelines by doctors
- the cost of insurance co-pays
- problems getting to a mammogram facility
- problems finding childcare
- problems taking time off work
- considering other health issues to be more important than surveillance mammograms
What this means for you
The results of this study are very upsetting and highlight some of the racial disparities in the healthcare system.
Your race, ethnicity, education level, or income level should not affect the quality of care you receive. Every woman should have access to the best care possible, including timely surveillance mammograms after completing treatment for early-stage breast cancer.
After you are done with your main breast cancer treatment, it’s important to focus on what’s most important: your good health. You deserve to receive the best ongoing care so you can live your best life. If your oncologist hasn’t talked to you about a breast cancer recurrence screening plan tailored to your unique needs, it’s a good idea to bring it up at your next appointment.
Ask how often you should have surveillance mammograms. It’s also a good idea to ask if screening with other types of imaging, such as MRI or ultrasound, makes sense for you.
Together, you and your doctor can create a surveillance plan tailored to your unique situation.
Written by: Jamie DePolo, senior editor
Reviewed by: Brian Wojciechowski, M.D., medical adviser
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