Reeder-Hayes KE, Mayer SE, Olshan AF, Wheeler SB, Carey LA, Tse CK, Bell ME, Troester MA. Race and delays in breast cancer treatment across the care continuum in the Carolina Breast Cancer Study. Cancer. 2019 Nov 15;125(22):3985-92. doi: 10.1002/cncr.32378

BACKGROUND: After controlling for baseline disease factors, researchers have found that black women have worse breast cancer survival, and this suggests that treatment differences may contribute to poorer outcomes. Delays in initiating and completing treatment are one proposed mechanism.

METHODS: Phase 3 of the Carolina Breast Cancer Study involved a large, population-based cohort of women with incident breast cancer. For this analysis, we included black women (n = 1328) and white women (n = 1331) with stage I to III disease whose treatment included surgery with or without adjuvant therapies. A novel treatment pathway grouping was used to benchmark the treatment duration (surgery only, surgery plus chemotherapy, surgery plus radiation, or all 3). Models controlled for the treatment pathway, age, and tumor characteristics and for demographic factors related to health care access. Exploratory analyses of the association between delays and cancer recurrence were performed.

RESULTS: In fully adjusted analyses, blacks had 1.73 times higher odds of treatment initiation more than 60 days after their diagnosis in comparison with whites (odds ratio [OR], 1.73; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.04-2.90). Black race was also associated with a longer treatment duration. Blacks were also more likely to be in the highest quartile of treatment duration (OR, 1.69; 95% CI, 1.41-2.02), even after adjustments for demographic and tumor characteristics (OR, 1.31; 95% CI, 1.04-1.64). A nonsignificant trend toward a higher recurrence risk was observed for patients with delayed initiation (hazard ratio, 1.44; 95% CI, 0.89-2.33) or the longest duration (hazard ratio, 1.17; 95% CI, 0.87-1.59).

CONCLUSIONS: Black women more often had delayed treatment initiation and a longer duration than whites receiving similar treatment. Interventions that target access barriers may be needed to improve timely delivery of care.

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