Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

WashU: Better Navigation Could Help African-American Breast Cancer Patients

Fragmented services and navigation help were major obstacles to breast cancer treatment of African-American women in St. Louis, according to research from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

[Photo: Dr. Sarah Gehlert]

Researchers interviewed 96 African-American breast cancer survivors who had been diagnosed with breast cancer from 2000 to 2008, using data from the Missouri Cancer Registry for eight ZIP codes in the St. Louis area with the highest death rates from breast cancer. They also conducted focus groups of breast cancer navigators and providers from a federally qualified health center (FQHC) that was a partner in the study.

They found that the fragmentation of services between multiple FQHCs and treatment facilities led to increased delays in treatment. Participants also said they found it hard to understand treatment information, particularly the purpose of radiation therapy, which caused some to reject or discontinue that treatment.

“Our findings suggest that tying navigators to episodes of breast cancer rather than services is a better alternative,” wrote Dr. Sarah Gehlert, E. Desmond Lee Professor of Racial and Ethnic Diversity at the Brown School, the senior author.  “Better integrated navigation that continues throughout treatment will increase treatment completion with the potential to improve outcomes in African Americans and decrease the disparity in mortality.”

First author of the study was Ms. Lailea Noel, a doctoral student at the Brown School.

The study was published online September 26 in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment.

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