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Staff Writer: Deileta Kamhunga

The place of care—whether a hospital or a doctor’s office—may have a profound impact on the quality and type of breast cancer care, as well as the reported side effects. One study reports disparities in breast cancer treatments and side effects between African American and White women.

  • White women experience breast cancer more frequently, but African American women face higher death rates from the disease.
  • In certain settings, African American women often receive less treatment than White women, while in other settings they receive more.
  • Adverse effects from treatment are notably more prevalent in African American women.
  • The place of treatment significantly affects how patients are treated and the side effects they report.

A study published in the journal Cancers analyzed data from the SEER-Medicare dataset. This dataset captures healthcare claims from a variety of provider sites. This study used data from hospital and healthcare facility outpatient files and from the National Claims History files, consisting of private practices and other non-institutional providers. One striking observation was that in private practices, African American women often received fewer treatments than White women. In contrast, at hospitals, they received more treatments than their White counterparts.

Side Effects: A Concern for African American Women

The study highlighted that regardless of where they received treatment, African American women reported more side effects. Though both racial groups were prescribed similar drugs, African American women more frequently received drugs known for more intense side effects. This difference accounted for their higher rates of adverse reactions.

Complexities in Patient Profiles: Age and Comorbidities

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Within the study, the patient profiles provided deeper insights. Interestingly, African American women were generally younger in every category compared to White women. Furthermore, they presented more frequently with advanced-stage cancers. Despite their younger age, African American women also showed higher comorbidity indices. However, these comorbidities did not provide a clear explanation for the difference in treatment-related adverse effects between the two racial groups.

What This Means for Healthcare Providers

It’s critical for healthcare providers to recognize the potential influence of the treatment venue on both the kind of treatment provided and the side effects documented. Providers should remain aware and be proactive in ensuring equal care quality and consistency across different venues. By understanding these disparities, healthcare professionals can better serve their patients, promoting equal outcomes regardless of race or place of treatment.


Wieder, R., & Adam, N. R. (2023). Racial disparities in breast cancer treatments and adverse events in the SEER-Medicare data. Cancers, 15(17), 4333. https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers15174333