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Blacks With Cancer Receive Lower Quality Health Care

10/18/2005
Source: 
The Journal of Clinical Oncology

In January, 2005, The Journal of Clinical Oncology released a study that showed several alarming statistics regarding the disparity in health care between blacks and whites diagnosed with cancer.

The study demonstrated survival rates between black patients and white patients for five specific types of cancers including breast, colon esophageal, lung and prostate. It also showed survival rates between blacks and whites for the general category of "all cancers."

According to the study, white patients had a survival rate of 64% for all cancers compared with 53% for black patients. This disparity in survival rates was similar for breast cancer, 88% whites, 74% blacks, colon cancer, 63% whites, 53% blacks, esophageal cancer, 15% whites, 9% blacks, lung cancer, 15% whites, 12% blacks, prostate cancer 98% whites, 93% blacks.

Researchers previously had found that when blacks and whites receive the same quality of health care treatments, they were equally likely to survive. In other words, there is no genetic or heredity differences between blacks and whites who suffer from cancer justifying the disparity in survival rates.
According to the author of the study, Craig Earle, a medical oncologist at Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute "that suggests the survival gap is caused by differences in care rather than biology."

Earle attributes the disparity to a difference in access to critical resources and board certified specialists. "It's all about access. We have to sort out why they're not getting treatment and try to actively increase the quality of care."

However, many who have studied the causes of health care disparities in the past are quick to warn that it may not be as easy as defining doctors as racists. Some previously identified causes include segregated neighborhoods and schools. These causes are contributors even where blacks and whites have the same type of health insurance.