Skip to content

    Breast Cancer Health Center

    Font Size

    Racial Gap in Breast Cancer Care

    White Women Living Longer; Survival Rates Among Blacks Unchanged

    Health Insurance, Distrust May Play Role

    Over the study period, the average time a woman lived from diagnosis also rose, from 20 to 21 to 25 months.

    For white women, survival times improved from 20 months to 27 months over time. But among black women, survival times remained basically flat at 16 to 17 months.

    “We’ve made huge strides in the treatment of advanced breast cancer, but as a group, black women are not benefiting from these improvements,” Giordano says. "Survival of non-Hispanic white women has improved, while survival of black women has remained unchanged,” she says.

    Giordano says that the study was not designed to identify the reasons for the racial gap, but speculated that access to health care and utilization of screening programs may play a role. For example, research has shown that 20% of blacks vs. 11% of whites lack health insurance, she tells WebMD.

    “But we need to do more research to find out what it causing the differences before we can fix the disparity,” Giordano says.

    Archie Bleyer, MD, medical advisor in the Cancer Treatment Center at St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, Ore., says blacks may have an inherent distrust of the health care system due to inequitable treatment in the past. Bleyer tells WebMD that doctors have to put efforts into making all patients feel equal and comfortable.

    “We don’t believe we treat patients differently, but our actions and words might not always convey that,” he says.

    • Visit our Breast Cancer: Friend to Friend board for new friends, support, and wonderful conversations.

    1 | 2

    Today on WebMD

    Breast Cancer Overview
    From mammograms to living after treatment.
    Dealing with breast cancer
    Get answers to your questions.
    woman having mammogram
    The 3 latest tips to know.
    woman undergoing breast cancer test
    Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
    Resolved To Quit Smoking
    Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
    Woman getting mammogram
    Screening Tests for Women
    serious woman
    Pink badge on woman chest to support breat cancer
    what is your cancer risk
    breast cancer survivors