Project details:

Researcher: Professor Robert Horne and Dr Zoe Moon

Where: University College London

Cost: £129,795

The challenge

Black women are less likely to get breast cancer than white women. But if they do, they can sometimes be less likely to survive, even if their breast cancer is diagnosed early.

We know that some black women may be less likely to continue taking their hormone therapy, which is prescribed for 5 or 10 years. This type of therapy reduces the chances of oestrogen receptor positive (ER-positive) breast cancer coming back and becoming incurable. But it comes with challenging side effects.

And overall, some black women are less satisfied with the care they receive. This might also make a difference to how successful treatment is compared to white women. But we need to research this further, and to explore what else may be contributing to health inequalities.

“We want to make sure that all women have equal access to the best possible care and treatment, no matter what their ethnicity is. To find out how to reduce these inequalities, we first need to understand why they are happening. To do this, we need to step into the patients’ shoes, and gain a deep understanding of their perspectives of the treatment and care they receive. This will tell us how we can improve the healthcare system to better support them.” – Professor Robert Horne

The science behind the project

Robert and Zoe’s research has 2 key aims:

  • To find out what stops black women from taking their hormone treatment for as long as it’s needed. Could it be to do with access to care and support, or could it be related to the side effects?
  • To work with patients and clinicians to find better ways to support black women with breast cancer

To address these aims, our researchers will collect and review all the research on this topic that’s been carried out in the UK so far. They’ll then carry out in-depth interviews with between 20 and 30 black women who have breast cancer. With these interviews, they hope to understand their experience of their breast cancer care and hormone therapy.

The researchers will also ask 150 white women and 150 black women to complete a survey. It’ll include questions about their experiences and beliefs about hormone therapy, and their feelings about the care they’ve received.

Researchers will combine all these results to find better ways to support black women with breast cancer. They’ll run workshops with black women and clinicians to develop these solutions further.

What difference will this project make?

Robert and Zoe’s research could help improve the quality of care for black women who have breast cancer. It could identify unmet needs in treatment and support, as well as find ways to address these needs. Overall, it’ll help to make sure that all women receive the best care and support, regardless of their background or ethnicity. It’ll help women to make fully informed choices about treatment that are right for them and improve their wellbeing. And in the long-term, it could lead to better outcomes for black women with breast cancer.

How many people could this project help?

It could help around 900 black women who are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in England alone. But this research could also help women from other parts of the UK and beyond.