Call for Action From Oncology Nurses to Close the Growing Disparity in Breast Cancer Mortality Among People of Color

By Lou Portero - Last Updated: September 20, 2022

Oncology nurse calls on other nurses and health care providers to help reduce the racial disparity in breast cancer mortality, especially among Black women.

Patricia Jakel, an advanced practice nurse at UCLA Santa Monica’s Solid Oncology Program, found it distressing that black women in the United States still had a 41% higher mortality rate from cancer than white women despite considerable breakthroughs in treatment options.

A study by Giaquinto et al. found that Black women with breast cancer are more often diagnosed at the later stages of the disease. According to the study, Black and White women received 57% and 67% of localized-stage diagnoses, respectively. As a result, Black women with breast cancer had a lower 5-year overall survival rate of 82%, compared to 92% for white women.

Jakel also emphasized the heightened disparity among Black women, citing that in 2019, breast cancer surpassed lung cancer as the leading cause of cancer death among this population. She called for targeted interventions to reduce stark cancer inequalities in the Black community.

Lower socioeconomic status, reduced access to appropriate health care, and inadequate health insurance may all contribute to these heightened disparities experienced by black women. To improve cancer care for Black patients across the country, Jakel urged her fellow oncology nurses to recognize these disparities, share the message, and equip these communities with evidence-based interventions.

She added that it was not just the care and treatment of Black women with breast cancer that the system failed. According to Jakel, the system does not protect Black patients with many types of cancer. She also believes the COVID-19 pandemic has further widened health disparities for individuals of color.

According to Jakel, for nurses and other health care workers to help close this mortality gap, they must recognize and address issues such as poor patient-physician relationships, longer referral times, treatment delays, and greater distrust of the medical system.

“Future research should explore the influence of systemic racism on health but also develop systems to reverse the course of such racism. Oncology nurses must work to change racial disparities in their practices locally, nationally, and globally. When it comes to health care, equal care and access are basic human rights. It starts with us,” she said in the article.

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