(CTN News) – During 2004-2020, more people used palliative care for breast cancer. As a result of the 16th American Association for Cancer (AACR) Conference on Cancer Health Disparities, held in Orlando, Florida, in September-October 2023, non-Hispanic Black, Hispanic, and Asian patients with advanced breast cancer received it less frequently than white patients.
Palliative care reduces pain and side effects caused by cancer or cancer treatments. Including palliative care early in a patient’s treatment plan can make them feel better, improve their quality of life, and even extend their lives.
During and after treatment, all cancer patients should be checked to see if they need palliative care by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). Palliative care should also be known by patients, their families, and caregivers.
In her presentation, Jincong Freeman, MPH, MS, a doctoral student in Public Health Sciences at the University of Chicago, stated, “It is imperative to identify the needs of these patients, particularly racial/ethnic minority populations, and determine how oncology programs can ensure equitable access to palliative care early in the cancer care continuum.
In his study, Freeman and his team looked at how palliative care usage has changed in the U.S. They also examined whether certain racial and ethnic groups received less palliative care.
NCDB, which has data from 1,500 cancer centers in the U.S., was used for the study. 148,931 patients with breast cancer had already spread when they were diagnosed. A total of 148,931 breast cancer patients with already spread cancer were included in the data from 2004 to 2020.
According to Freeman, palliative care use increased significantly over time from 14.9% in 2004 to 27.6% in 2020. All racial and ethnic groups experienced increases.”
Hispanics, Asian Pacific Islanders, and Black non-Hispanics received less palliative care than non-Hispanic whites. Despite medical and social factors, the differences were 13%, 26%, and 35%, respectively. For patients who identified as American Indian, Alaska Native, or other, there was no significant difference.
Even though more people are using palliative care, more than 70% will not receive it by 2020. Some people don’t know about it, have cultural beliefs against it, or doctors prefer other treatments, he believes.
He suggests following the NCCN’s advice to start palliative care early for all patients. In addition, he wants doctors and patients to understand palliative care better and not confuse it with hospice or end-of-life care.
As Freeman emphasized, we need to discuss palliative care’s benefits and address the differences in care for people with metastatic breast cancer.
This study, however, has some limitations. It might not be possible for them to have all the information about palliative care, so more research is needed. Symptoms and side effects of patients weren’t mentioned, which can affect palliative care decisions.
Different organizations supported the study, and Freeman has no conflicts of interest.
This study sheds light on racial and ethnic disparities in palliative care utilization among breast cancer patients. In order to improve the quality of life for metastatic breast cancer patients from all backgrounds, it is essential to raise awareness about the benefits of palliative care and take proactive steps to address disparities.