Breast Cancer Screening in Racialized Women: Implications for Health Equity

Feb 24, 2014 | by
  • Description

Inequalities across the breast cancer continuum due to racialization have significantly affected women's access to screening programs, diagnosis, treatment and survival. To ensure there is equitable access to quality care there needs to be a better understanding of broader systemic issues. Despite the existence of breast cancer prevention strategies across Canada, inequitable access to screening has barred many women from receiving adequate medical attention. More than half of recent immigrants (those who have been in Canada for less than 10 years) who are eligible for screening did not utilize the program in the previous two years compared to 26 percent of Canadian-born women. Currently, prevention through screening is the primary form of breast cancer control in Canada, thus the differential access to screening among social, geographic, demographic and racial groups can severely affect one's chances of surviving. This paper provides an overview of inequitable outcomes across the breast cancer continuum due to racialization, with a particular focus on screening. It provides a brief description of racial and ethnic differences in screening utilization, diagnosis and survival drawing on local, national, and international data. It also provides a summary of important barriers to screening in racialized and ethnic minority women. It concludes with implications for Ontario and the Greater TorontoArea (GTA), and identifies possible directions forward. Racial, ethnic and socioeconomic differences in breast cancer screening have an important impact on the chance of both developing and dying from breast cancer. Therefore, we must acknowledge the negative impact of racialization and racism on health outcomes in Canada. In order to adequately address this problem, there is a need for community-based research that allows us to gain better insight into the perceptions, lived experiences and the multiple and often competing needs of women across racialized and immigrant communities in Ontario.