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Post-Op Deaths Decline for Cancer Patients, But Blacks Still More Vulnerable

TUESDAY, Dec. 8, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Fewer U.S. patients are dying after cancer surgery, but Black patients still have a higher risk than white patients, new research shows.

For the study, researchers analyzed Medicare data on nearly 871,000 cancer surgeries conducted from 2007 to 2016 on patients with nine major types of cancer.

During that time, death rates after surgery improved by 0.12% a year among Black patients, and by 0.14% a year among white patients.

However, death rates were higher to begin with for Black patients than for white patients, so the similar declines in death rates for both groups means the difference between them did not narrow, according to the report published online Dec. 3 in JAMA Network Open.

The findings show that more targeted efforts are needed to reduce disparities between Black and white cancer surgery patients, the study authors said.

"Black Americans are likely to be diagnosed with more advanced cancer than whites and, historically, have had higher mortality rates following cancer surgery," said study author Dr. Miranda Lam, from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women's Hospital, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Harvard Medical School, in Boston.

"Hospitals have put a variety of policies in place to improve surgical cancer care over the past 15 years. This study provided an opportunity to gauge the effects of those measures for patients in general and for Blacks and whites specifically," Lam explained in a Dana-Farber news release.

"The findings tell us that even though policies designed to improve cancer surgery outcomes are working better for all patients, none of them have been specific enough to close the gap in mortality between Blacks and whites," Lam said.

"It's possible that part of the gap may be due to upstream and/or downstream issues from the surgery itself, such as late referrals which may lead to late presentation at time of surgery, fragmented follow-up after discharge, and limited resources in the community, and that different policies and interventions may be needed to address disparities in cancer surgery," Lam concluded.

More information

For more on cancer surgery, go to the American Cancer Society.

SOURCE: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, news release, Dec. 3, 2020

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