Research conducted at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine attributes the high mortality rate of Black cancer patients to the presence of racial inequality in the American medicine practice. According to the study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Black colorectal cancer patients were less likely than white patients to receive treatment from cancer specialists.
Researchers followed 11,216 cancer colorectal cancer patients over the age of 66 as they sought specialized treatment and medical care. The results revealed that Black patients were “10 percent less likely to have primary tumor surgery, 17 percent less likely to receive chemotherapy, and 30 percent less likely to receive radiotherapy.”
The study noted that when proper and equal treatment was received, there was no difference between the mortality rate of White and Black cancer patients.
According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer, a form of cancer that attacks either the colon or rectum, accounts for over 50,000 deaths in the United States. Extensive studies reveal that this form of cancer disproportionally affects Afrikan Americans who experience a 15 percent higher mortality risk than White patients.
In a university press release, James D. Murphy MD, MS, assistant professor and chief of the Radiation Oncology Gastrointestinal Tumor Service at UCSD Moores Cancer Center, concluded that treatment differences attributed to the disproportionate survival rates between Black and White colorectal cancer patients.
“Further studies may answer the important question of why there are racial disparities in consults with cancer specialists and treatment among this population. The answers may lead to areas we can improve upon to close these gaps,” Murphy stated.
The study did not specify the causes for the varied treatment between White and Black patients, but did provide possible explanations: “Conscious or unconscious provider biases; patient mistrust; health literacy; patient-physician communication breakdown; healthcare access barriers; and/or race-based differences in disease biology.”
If anything, the study reveals that racial disparities have the power to manifest across various societal institutions.
“I suspect that this pattern of disparity could be present in other underserved minority groups as well,” said Murphy.
Author: Amanda Washington