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Disparities in breast cancer diagnosis for immigrant women in Ontario and BC: results from the CanIMPACT study

Lofters AK, McBride ML, Li D, Whitehead M, Moineddin R, Jiang L, Grunfeld E, Groome PA; CanIMPACT Team. BMC Cancer. 2019; 19:42. Epub 2019 Jan 9.


Background — In Canada, clinical practice guidelines recommend breast cancer screening, but there are gaps in adherence to recommendations for screening, particularly among certain hard-to-reach populations, that may differ by province. We compared stage of diagnosis, proportion of screen-detected breast cancers, and length of diagnostic interval for immigrant women versus long-term residents of BC and Ontario.

Methods — We conducted a retrospective cohort study using linked administrative databases in BC and Ontario. We identified all women residing in either province who were diagnosed with incident invasive breast cancer between 2007 and 2011, and determined who was foreign-born using the Immigration Refugee and Citizenship Canada database. We used descriptive statistics and bivariate analyses to describe the sample and study outcomes. We conducted multivariate analyses (modified Poisson regression and quantile regression) to control for potential confounders.

Results — There were 14,198 BC women and 46,952 Ontario women included in the study population, of which 11.8 and 11.7% were foreign-born respectively. In both provinces, immigrants and long-term residents had similar primary care access. In both provinces, immigrant women were significantly less likely to have a screen-detected breast cancer (adjusted relative risk 0.88 [0.79–0.96] in BC, 0.88 [0.84–0.93] in Ontario) and had a significantly longer median diagnostic interval (2 [0.2–3.8] days in BC, 5.5 [4.4–6.6] days in Ontario) than long-term residents. Women from East Asia and the Pacific were less likely to have a screen-detected cancer and had a longer diagnostic interval, but were diagnosed at an earlier stage than long-term residents. In Ontario, women from Latin America and the Caribbean and from South Asia were less likely to have a screen-detected cancer, had a longer median diagnostic interval, and were diagnosed at a later stage than long-term residents. These findings were not explained by access to primary care.

Conclusions — There are inequalities in breast cancer diagnosis for Canadian immigrant women. We have identified particular immigrant groups (women from Latin America and the Caribbean and from South Asia) that appear to be subject to disparities in the diagnostic process that need to be addressed in order to effectively reduce gaps in care.

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