(HealthDay News) — Racial and ethnic minority patients seem to be more vulnerable to breast cancer-related privations and financial decline, according to a study published online March 24 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Reshma Jagsi, M.D., from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues examined the financial experiences of a racially and ethnically diverse cohort of women diagnosed with nonmetastatic breast cancer from 2005 to 2007. Surveys were conducted about nine months after diagnosis and four years later among 1,502 women.

The researchers found that the median out-of-pocket expenses were ≤$2,000, with 17 percent reporting spending >$5,000. At four years after diagnosis, 12 percent of respondents reported medical debt, with significant variation by race: 9 percent for whites; 15 percent for blacks; 17 percent for English-speaking Latinas; and 10 percent for Spanish-speaking Latinas (P = 0.03). One-quarter of women experienced financial decline that was at least partly due to breast cancer, with increased odds of decline for Spanish-speaking Latinas versus whites (odds ratio [OR], 2.76; P = 0.006). Eighteen percent of the sample reported at least one privation, with privation significantly more likely for blacks (OR, 2.6; P < 0.001) and English-speaking Latinas (OR, 2.2; P = 0.02) versus whites.

“Racial and ethnic minority patients appear most vulnerable to privations and financial decline attributable to breast cancer, even after adjustment for income, education, and employment,” the authors write.

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