Those findings are drawn from a new study published today in the journal Archives of Surgery by a University of Michigan Health System surgeon and her colleagues.
The study adds to the long list of racial disparities already known to exist in colorectal cancer incidence, screening and treatment. And it confirms that many patients of any race still aren't receiving appropriate post-surgery radiation therapy.
Cancer of the colon and rectum is the fourth most common form of cancer in the United States, and the second leading cause of cancer death. More than 135,000 Americans are expected to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year. Although incidence and mortality rates of colorectal cancer in the United States are declining, the rate of decline for African-Americans is slower than for whites.
The new study finds that African-Americans with rectal cancer were diagnosed at a younger age than whites, and were more likely to have reached an advanced stage of cancer progression before their cancer was caught.
They were also more likely than whites to have a kind of surgery that removes the bowel sphincter, meaning that they would have to wear a waste-collecting colostomy bag for the rest of their lives.
African-Americans were also less likely than whites to get radiation before or after surgery. But in fact, only half of patients received such radiation, no matter what their race -- despite the fact that radiation after surgery has been proven to help survival.
"What we saw is that many people aren't getting optimal care, and that some groups are getting even less optimal care than others," says Arden Morris, M.D., MPH, a colorectal surgeon in the U-M Division of General Surgery and Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Contact: Kara Gavin
University of Michigan Health System