About half of Hispanic women in a study of breast cancer patients had noticed changes in their breasts, but waited more than a month to seek medical care, according to results of research presented this week at The Science of Cancer Health Disparities conference in Carefree, Ariz.
When asked why they waited, the women cited factors such as not having insurance or the inability to afford medical care. Other reasons given were fear of the diagnosis, difficulty scheduling an appointment or the belief that it wasn't important to report the finding to a medical professional.
Results of the study, presented by Rachel Zenuk, a graduate student at the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, suggest that breast cancer may be more aggressive in Hispanic women because they are waiting longer to get treatment.
Some studies have shown that Hispanic women have a lower rate for breast cancer than whites, Asian-Americans and African-Americans, but they're less likely to survive as long as those from the other groups because they're diagnosed at later stages of the cancer.
"Hispanics have the highest levels of lack of insurance of any minority group, and because of that they are hesitating to get the care they need," said Elena Martinez, professor of epidemiology at Zuckerman College of Public Health and co-leader of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at the Arizona Cancer Center in Tucson.
The study also showed that about two-thirds of the breast cancer cases were discovered through self-examinations.
The study comprised 230 Mexican-American breast cancer patients in Arizona and Texas.
In other data presented at the conference, it was reported that more than a million U.S. cancer survivors are going without necessary medical care because of the expense, and Hispanics and African-Americans are twice as likely to forgo services.
"These survivors are either going without, or significantly delaying, dental care, general medical care, mental health care or prescription drugs," said Kathryn Weaver, a cancer prevention fellow at the National Cancer Institute. Even those with medical coverage are neglecting to get care because of co-pays and other out-of-pocket expenses, Weaver said.
For more information from the American Association for Cancer Research, go to http://www.aacr.org.
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