About 25 percent of African-American women who suffer from advanced breast cancer refuse lifesaving chemotherapy and other forms of radiation treatment, according to a new study conducted at the Division of Surgical Oncology at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.

During a six-year period, researchers analyzed the records of 107 women (87 percent of them black) with advanced breast cancer (stage 3 or higher) in one inner city hospital. Among these women, 29 percent did not respond well to “new targeted treatments,” 20.5 percent refused chemotherapy, and 26.3 percent refused radiation, the researchers reported.

Past reports show that black women are twice as likely as white women to develop advanced breast cancer. Why? Primarily because by the time the disease is diagnosed, it has progressed to a higher stage.

While researchers were not completely sure why the black women in their study nixed lifesaving treatment, they suspect that misconceptions and myths about cancer and fear of the medical system contribute to the problem.

The solution? “Educate more women and dispel some fears that they can have about cancer and cancer treatment, and encourage them to have yearly mammograms to catch cancers at an earlier stage, when the cancer is more curable,” said Monica Rizzo, MD, the lead researcher.

Read RH’s “Battling Breast Cancer” to learn about the mammogram screening guides and new cancer treatments.