Regardless of insurance coverage, black women experience longer delays for breast cancer diagnosis and treatment than white women, according to a study from The George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, DC.

According to university press materials, researchers set out to examine the affects of race and health insurance status on breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. To do this, they reviewed the medical histories of 581 women with breast cancer who were examined between 1997 and 2009 at seven hospitals and clinics in the DC area.

Researchers found that insured black women waited twice as long for a definitive diagnosis and that the women waited twice as long to begin treatment after their definitive breast cancer diagnosis.

“Black women should be the focus of breast cancer screening outreach and follow-up because they experience greater delays in diagnosis and in treatment than white women, regardless of insurance status,” said Heather Hoffman, PhD, an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatics at The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services.

Based on this study, researchers suggested that breast cancer outcomes for black women could be improved by more outreach and better patient education and management. The authors also stressed the importance of timely medical follow-up.

“We need to determine what other barriers contribute to diagnosis and treatment delays in insured black women and all uninsured women,” Hoffman said.

Read how eating pomegranates might reduce your breast cancer risk here.