Friday, October 26, 2007

Racial disparity among breast cancer patients

A blue ribbon panel in Chicago released a report yesterday outlining recommendations to help decrease health disparities, after it was found that the breast cancer mortality rate for black women in Chicago is 68 percent higher than that for white women, a disparity that cannot be explained by genetics alone. One of the key recommendations is to create a "universal, transparent quality-control system for mammograms, which are specialized X-rays that can detect breast cancer earlier." Full article can be accessed here (free registration may be required).
The panel's report is available at

1 comment:

VCSmith said...

The Widening Gap in Chicago’s Healthcare

A recent study, released by the Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force, indicates Chicago has a serious issue with uniformity throughout its healthcare system. In March, the task force set out to uncover why the city’s African-American women who acquire breast cancer are dying a much higher rates than white women are. As it stands, Chicago’s mortality rate for African-American women battling breast cancer is 68% higher compared to their Caucasian counterparts.1 This gap has widened over the years under the auspices of a “de facto segregated health-care system.”
The task force has formulated three major hypotheses for explaining the breast cancer disparities in Chicago: “1) African American women receive fewer mammograms; 2) African American women receive mammograms of inferior quality; and 3) African American women have inadequate access to quality treatment once breast cancer is diagnosed.”2 There is a desperate lack of mammogram accessibility and capacity in the areas with the most need. “The institutions with the best quality care are not in the neighborhoods where the need is greatest -- neighborhoods inhabited by poor, minority women.”1
The task force has outlined 37 recommendations for a system overhaul of Chicago’s healthcare system. The force admits, “some can be implemented immediately, while others will require a longer-term investment, further development and collaboration, additional study and statewide policy changes.” Recommendations handed down by the team include, the implementation of a universal, transparent quality control system for mammograms, whereby the collection of quality data, such as the number of cancers detected per 1000 screen mammograms and the rate of false-positive results are shared with the public. In addition, the implementation of an electronic network established between “minority neighborhoods” to central diagnostic hubs, where experts interpret mammograms. The task force conjointly recommends the use of specialized imaging for earlier detection at local mammogram facilities.
The racial gap exists on a national level as well. The national death rates for African-American women are 37% higher than that for white women. No significant answers can be found with genetic influence. The racial gap in New York City is 11%.1 Its well-established network of public hospitals and clinics contribute to the limiting of racial differences in the city’s healthcare. Healthcare systems and institutions that participate in quality assessments have proven better for it. Patients live longer with extended to quality of life. Without an overhaul of Chicago’s healthcare system, communities will continue to lose their mothers, daughters, sisters and wives. Traditionally, the role of the African-American woman is crucial, particularly to her community, where she is not uncommonly a sergeant to several children, not of her own bearing. A community without mothers and with children left to raise themselves is frightening and never ideal, to say the least.

1. System overhaul key to reducing breast cancer deaths for black women. The Chicago Tribune. 18 October 2007. Available at:,0,2735430.story. Accessed 21 October 2007.

2. Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force. Improving Quality and Reducing Disparities in Breast Cancer Mortality in Metropolitan Chicago. Chicago, IL, October 2007. Available at: Accessed 21 October 2007.