Blacks Older Than Age 65 Less Likely Than Whites To Receive Recommended Cancer Treatment, Study Finds
Racial disparities persist in cancer treatment, with black patients older than 65 "consistently less likely" than their white counterparts to receive the recommended treatment, according to a study published on Monday in the journal Cancer, Reuters reports. For the study, Yale University School of Medicine researchers examined cancer treatment for more than 143,000 U.S. residents with lung, breast, colon, rectal or prostate cancer who were treated from 1992 to 2002 under Medicare.
The largest disparities were seen in treatment of lung, colon and rectal cancers, according to the study. Researchers found that among people with early-stage lung cancer, blacks were 19% less likely to have tumors surgically removed than whites. Blacks with rectal cancer were 27% less likely than whites to undergo additional chemotherapy after having a tumor surgically removed, and blacks with colon cancer were 24% less likely to receive chemotherapy than whites after surgical removal of a tumor, according to the study. Among those with breast cancer who had a lumpectomy, blacks were 7% less likely than whites to get radiation therapy. Black men diagnosed with prostate cancer were 11% less likely than whites to receive surgical or radiation treatment, the study found.
Lead researcher Cary Gross said, "What we found was that the racial disparities did not change during that 10-year time interval." Gross said possible factors for the disparities were blacks having less access to care; higher rates of certain chronic conditions among blacks, which can complicate cancer therapy; and distrust of the medical establishment among blacks.
Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, said, "This sort of thing has been a problem in the United States for a long, long time," adding, "I think individual racism likely accounts for a small amount of it, but not a large amount. What I would refer to as institutional or societal racism accounts for a much larger component of it" (Dunham, Reuters, 1/7).