Background: Studies in the United States have reported that Black women have higher fatality rates than White women following a diagnosis of breast cancer and are more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage cancers. Purpose: To evaluate reasons for these racial differences, we explored the difference between Black and White women in the length of time from symptom recognition to initial medical consultation. We also evaluated the extent to which other factors related to the length of this interval might contribute to any observed racial difference. Methods: As part of a collaborative study of differences in the survival rates of Black patients and White patients with cancer, we interviewed a sample of 410 Black women and 325 White women from Atlanta, New Orleans, and San Francisco/Oakland who were newly diagnosed in 1985 or 1986 with invasive breast cancer. Retrospective data were collected on symptoms, dates of symptom recognition and initial medical consultation, and several other factors which may affect the interval between symptom recognition and medical consultation. Data were analyzed as if from a follow-up study, using product limit procedures and proportional hazards regression. Results: At diagnosis, Black women with breast cancer were two times more likely to have stage IV breast cancer and one and one-half times more likely to have stage III breast cancer than White women with breast cancer and were only approximately one-half as likely to have stage I breast cancer. Similarly, Black women were almost twice as likely as White women to have tumors that were larger than 5 cm or tumors that had extensions to the chest wall or skin at presentation. However, the average rate at which Black women with breast cancer obtained an initial medical consultation lagged behind that for White women by only a slight but statistically significant difference (15%). The median time between symptom recognition and medical consultation was slightly longer for Black women (16 days) than for White women (14 days) (P = .06). Adjustment for other characteristics predictive of the length of this interval had little effect on racial differences. The racial differences tended to vary somewhat by age and metropolitan area, suggesting that the results may not apply equally to all demographic subgroups and regions in the United States. Conclusion: This small difference in the time from symptom recognition to medical consultation is unlikely to account for the large racial differences in survival rates and in stage of disease at the time of diagnosis.