Kuni Foundation grant supports Providence study of breast cancer screening disparities

May 25, 2021 Providence News Team

Portland, Ore. – Researchers at Providence’s Center for Outcomes Research and Education (CORE) have received a $430,000 Kuni Foundation grant to study disparities in cancer screenings, a funding priority for the foundation.

It is a known fact that early detection is key to improving cancer outcomes. However, research shows that individuals with lower socioeconomic status do not receive cancer screenings as often as other groups. Furthermore, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer at more advanced stages, receive less aggressive treatment, and have a lower five-year survival rate. These facts paint a concerning picture of how inequities can lead to disparate outcomes in cancer care.

In light of this, CORE is launching a study to better understand and address the disparities, focusing on breast cancer screening. With funding from the Kuni Foundation, CORE researchers will examine factors both inside and outside of health care, with a focus on social determinants of health such as economic insecurity, housing instability, racism/discrimination, social isolation, past trauma, and health care access. CORE will explore what impacts these factors may have on disparities in screening rates.

“Research has consistently shown that social and health care factors such as access to services, housing instability, or past trauma have a profound impact on outcomes. Less is known about how these factors come together to affect breast cancer screening,” said Keri Vartanian, Ph.D., director of CORE. “This study will help identify and address the factors driving these unacceptable disparities in cancer screenings.”

The Enhancing Health Equity by Understanding the Key Drivers of Disparities in Breast Cancer Screening study will reach out directly to thousands of patients eligible for mammography. It will examine barriers and facilitators to screening, with a specific focus on groups with inequitable screening rates.

Over the course of the coming year, CORE will work with English and non-English speaking focus groups to develop a survey that will go to 20,000 individuals who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color throughout the Portland area to learn about barriers to breast cancer screening. A follow-up survey will include in-person interviews to further explore disparity details. Preliminary results are expected in 2022.

CORE will examine social and health care related factors, with the goal of providing practice and policy recommendations that improve population health outcomes by ensuring equity in preventive screening for breast cancer.

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