Variations in breast carcinoma treatment in older medicare beneficiaries: is it black or white

Cancer. 2002 Oct 1;95(7):1401-14. doi: 10.1002/cncr.10825.


Background: To evaluate associations between race and breast carcinoma treatment.

Methods: Data from 984 black and 849 white Medicare beneficiaries 67 years or older with local breast carcinoma and a subset of 732 surviving women interviewed 3-4 years posttreatment were used to calculate adjusted odds of treatment, controlling for age, comorbidity, attitudes, region, and area measures of socioeconomic and health care resources.

Results: Sixty-seven percent of women received a mastectomy and 33% received breast-conserving surgery. The odds of radiation omission were 48% higher (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.01-2.19) for blacks than for whites after considering covariates, but the absolute number of women who failed to receive this modality was small (11%). In race-stratified models, the odds of having radiation omitted were significantly higher among blacks living greater distances from a cancer center (vs. lesser) or living in areas with high poverty (vs. low), but these factors did not affect radiation use among whites. Among those interviewed, blacks reported perceiving more ageism and racism in the health care system than whites (P = 0.001). The independent odds of receiving mastectomy (vs. breast conservation and radiation) were 2.72 times higher (95% CI 1.25-5.92) among women reporting the highest quartile of perceived ageism scores, compared with the lowest, and higher perceived ageism tended to be associated with higher odds of radiation omission (P = 0.06).

Conclusions: Older black women with localized breast carcinoma may have a different experience obtaining treatment than their white counterparts. The absolute number of women receiving nonstandard care was small and the effects were small to moderate. However, if these patterns persist, it will be important to evaluate whether such experiences contribute to within-stage race mortality disparities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • African Americans*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / ethnology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Carcinoma / ethnology*
  • Carcinoma / therapy*
  • European Continental Ancestry Group*
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Mastectomy
  • Mastectomy, Segmental
  • Medicare / statistics & numerical data
  • Prejudice*
  • Quality of Health Care*
  • United States