Racial Disparities in Cancer Patient Treatment

University_of_California_San_Diego_UCSD_LogoA study conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine finds that African Americans colorectal cancer patients are less likely than White patients to be seen by cancer specialists or receive cancer treatments. The differences in treatment may explain a mortality rate for African Americans that is 15 percent higher than the rate for non-Hispanic White patients. The study found that when Black and White patients received the same level of treatment there was no difference in mortality rates.

The researchers analyzed data on more than 11,200 cancer patients over the age of 66. The data showed that Blacks were 10 percent less likely than Whites to have primary tumor surgery, 17 percent less likely to undergo chemotherapy, and 30 percent less likely to receive radiotherapy. In addition, for those patients who did receive chemotherapy, Whites were more likely than Blacks to receive more extensive treatment and to receive chemotherapy sooner than Blacks.

The authors of the study offered six possible explanations for the racial differences: conscious or unconscious provider bias, patient mistrust, health literacy, patient/physician communication problems, healthcare access barriers, and/or race-based differences in disease biology.

The article, “Racial Disparity in Consultation, Treatment, and the Impact on Survival in Metastatic Colorectal Cancer,” was published on the website of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. It may be accessed here.

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