Disability may reduce breast cancer survival

Women with disabilities may be less likely to survive breast cancer, according to a US study.

Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre (BIDMC) and Harvard Medical School claim that they have uncovered evidence that the most appropriate breast cancer treatments are not always offered to disabled women.

A study of data from 100,311 women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer between January 1988 and December 1999 revealed that disabled women, of which there were nearly 3,000, were 29 per cent more likely to die from their cancer.

The study claims that the group of disabled women were 20 per cent less likely to be treated with breast-conserving surgery, one of the accepted therapeutic breast cancer treatments.

They were also 19 per cent less likely to receive lymph node dissection and 17 per cent less likely to be offered radiation therapy.

However, the researchers believe that the difference in survival rate is not only a result of differences in treatment.

"Among some women with disabilities, there may be a greater possibility for complications due to their physical conditions," explained Lisa Iezzoni, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

"Their physicians may be less likely to offer them the less invasive option of breast-conserving surgery, assuming that physical appearance is not important to them," she continued.

In addition, Professor Iezzoni said that logistical issues could be a factor, as women with disabilities may be unable to arrange for regular transportation to radiation therapy treatment centres or be physically unable to undergo such treatments.

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