Black Rectal Cancer Patients See Specialists at Similar Rates as Whites But Are Less Likely To Receive Recommended Therapy, Study Finds
Black rectal cancer patients are less likely than whites to receive chemotherapy or radiation therapy, even though both groups are referred to specialists at about the same rate, according to a study published online Tuesday by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report reports. Chemotherapy and radiation can improve survival in rectal cancer patients by as much as 20%, according to HealthDay/U.S. News.
For the study, Arden Morris, an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Michigan Medical School and chief of general surgery at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, and colleagues from the UM Comprehensive Cancer Center studied 2,582 whites and 134 blacks age 66 and older. Researchers found that although 73% of blacks and 75% of whites saw an oncologist after being diagnosed with rectal cancer, 54% of blacks, compared with 70% of whites, underwent chemotherapy. Rates of referral to radiologists also were similar for the two groups, but 74% of blacks, compared with 83% of whites, received radiation therapy.
Blacks have as much as a 20% worse survival rate after rectal cancer surgery than whites, and researchers believe that blacks' lower rate of receiving chemotherapy and radiation treatment is a major factor in the disparity, according to HealthDay/U.S. News.
Morris said, "We now know that the initial visit with an oncologist is not the barrier to treatment. Our next step is to better understand what are the human factors that contribute to this discrepancy." Morris said different social factors and priorities among blacks and whites -- such as patient preferences, access to reliable transportation to doctor visits or family support -- might play a part. "Choice is important," she said, adding, "If there's a choice, this maybe isn't a disparity but a preference. But if it's not a choice, then we need to understand the barriers and find solutions."
She said a follow-up study will involve patients who have been treated for rectal cancer and will examine how they decided to receive chemotherapy (HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, 5/13).
The study is available online.