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Chance of Survival Lower for Black Women With Cervical CA


WebMD Health News

Oct. 28, 1999 (Atlanta) -- Black women survive cervical cancer less than white women do, and it will take more than early screening to bridge the gap, according to a new study.

The study, in this month's issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology, followed a group of black women and white women for up to 7 years after they were diagnosed with cervical cancer. In that period, about 30% of the black women died. Among the same group, 25% of white women died.

The point at which the two groups sought treatment for their cancers varied, with black women going to doctors at a more advanced stage of the disease compared to white women. The study's lead author, John Concato, MD, associate professor of medicine at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., tells WebMD that increased screening with pap smears for black women does, of course, lower death rates, but this factor alone "is unlikely to eliminate differences in survival."

"It is important for women to be diagnosed early rather than later, but even when differences along those lines are accounted for, there still seems to be something else that contributes to the difference in mortality according to the race of the patient," Concato tells WebMD.

The data in the research came from more than 6,000 women from across the U.S. included in a National Cancer Institute study. Only black and white women were included in the study.

The types of treatment the women received were also found to vary. Black women were less likely to undergo surgery for the disease and more likely to receive radiation therapy than white women. But according to the researchers, "the treatment pattern, however, only partially accounted for racial differences in survival."

Concato tells WebMD the study does not indicate that "African-American women are being treated [on a personal level] any differently than white women from the medical profession's point of view."

What the study does show, Concato says, is "racial differences in survival among women with cervical cancer are not explained by the age of the patient or the stage of their disease, but may involve other factors such as socioeconomic status, clinical severity of disease, or other medical problems they may have."

"Race remains an independent predictor of cervical cancer survival after accounting for age, stage of disease, treatment patterns, and other factors," and the researchers say the findings in this study are "consistent with other evidence of racial disparity in medical treatment." The study mentions racial differences in ovarian cancer treatment and in invasive cardiac procedures.

Alan Kaye, the executive director of the National Cervical Cancer Coalition, tells WebMD that after all is said and done, "it just seems that it gets back to early detection, and then maybe some people with early detection aren't getting the proper follow-up treatment they should be getting, based on socioeconomic levels and insurance affordability."

Kaye says, "Cervical cancer caught early is nearly 100% curable." But he stresses that "early intervention is the No. 1 priority to allow it to be treatable and curable."

Concato tells WebMD the researchers' "ultimate goal" in this study was to help bring attention and more understanding to the issue, and to stimulate further study. "We are only beginning to scratch the surface and truly get at an understanding of what's going on," he says.

 

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