Courtesy UT Health Science Center at San Antonio

Latinas have life-threatening time delay after an abnormal mammogram

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Latinas who have an abnormal mammogram result take 33 days longer to reach definitive diagnosis of breast cancer than non-Hispanic white women, which threatens their lives, according to a new study by researchers at the Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR) at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Such a time delay can have a critical impact on tumor size, stage at diagnosis, treatment, prognosis, and survival of subsequent breast cancer.

For this study, published in SpringerPlus, IHPR researchers worked with partners in the federally-funded Redes En Acción: The National Latino Cancer Network to evaluate the differences in time to diagnosis of breast cancer among 186 Latinas and 74 non-Hispanic whites who received an abnormal mammogram result in six U.S. cities.

Analysis showed that Latinas’ median time to definitive diagnosis of breast cancer was 60 days, compared to just 27 days for non-Hispanic white women.

“This long delay puts Latinas at greater risk of being diagnosed with larger tumors and more advanced-stage breast cancer, which can affect prognosis,” said Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, the study’s corresponding author and director of the IHPR and SaludToday.

Given this delay and that cancer now is the leading cause of Latino death, this study also signals a greater need for ethnically- and culturally-appropriate interventions to facilitate Latinas’ successful entry into, and progression through, the cancer care system, Dr. Ramirez said.

Dr. Ramirez’ team recently found that extra support for patients, called “patient navigation,” can lead to faster diagnosis for Latinas after an abnormal mammogram result.

In that study, published in Cancer, women who received help from trained patient navigators had significantly shorter time delays between an abnormal mammogram and definitive diagnosis—whether positive or negative for breast cancer—than those who did not receive navigation. Services provided by navigators include culturally-sensitive support and help overcoming barriers related to transportation, child care, insurance, language and more.

“We’ve found that Latinas experience delays to diagnosis, and that patient navigation can speed up the time to cancer diagnosis for Latinas,” Dr. Ramirez said. “We’re now testing if patient navigation also can speed the lag time Latinas have from receiving that diagnosis to starting their treatment.”

The Institute for Health Promotion Research at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio researches Latino health issues and founded the SaludToday Latino health blog, Twitter and Facebook.

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