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Black Women More Likely to Wait Longer for a Breast Biopsy Following Abnormal Mammogram

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Black women in the U.S. are more likely to experience longer wait times for their breast biopsy following an abnormal mammogram diagnosis, according to a recent study. 

Released in the Journal of American Medicine Association, the study, titled “Multilevel Factors Associated With Time to Biopsy After Abnormal Screening Mammography Results by Race and Ethnicity,” was conducted by a group of researchers from institutions such as the University of Washington School of Medicine, University of North Carolina, University of Illinois and the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah amongst others. 

Analyzing data from 109 breast cancer imaging centers in the U.S. across a 10-year span, the researchers found that, out of 45,186 women between the ages of 40 to 79, 34.6% of the women didn’t get their abnormal mammogram results resolved during a 30-day waiting period, meaning that they were unable to get a biopsy in the span of one month. Meanwhile, 16.2% and 12.2% reported that they didn’t get a biopsy done within 60 days and 90 days, respectively. 

Of those who were forced to wait 90 days for the next step after their diagnosis, the researchers found that Black women were part of this group at higher rates than any other racial or ethnic group. With the average number of days white women wait for a biopsy- 20.7 days – acting as a benchmark, they calculated that the longer that Black women waited during this 90-day period following an abnormal result, the higher the risk of never getting a biopsy was at 28%. 

“Even after adjusting for multiple factors thought to contribute to delayed diagnosis, we still see persistent disparities among minority women, particularly Black women,” the lead researcher of the study and acting radiology instructor at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine, Dr.Marissa Lawson, said in a statement. “To me, this suggests that other underlying factors are contributing to these differences in time to biopsy.”

Of the underlying factors, Dr. Lawson and her researchers suggest that the structure of the healthcare system and the racism within it might be at the root of it. They point to issues such as increased difficulty scheduling a biopsy appointment and problems with communication issues that the faculty may have with their patients as potential reasons why there was a delay in biopsy appointments. 

According to the researchers, resolving these issues could dramatically improve patients’ experience waiting for the biopsy. 

“Our findings highlight an opportunity for radiology departments to consider where they can commit resources to improve wait times for biopsy,” said one of the paper’s authors, Dr. Christoph Lee, to UW Newsroom. “This could include implementing changes in that diagnostic pathway such as using navigators to help guide patients through the process of scheduling exams and procedures.” 

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