Racial differences still prevail in cancer care

Washington, Jan 7: Researchers at the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut have found that despite efforts in the last 10 years to mitigate cancer treatment disparities, black patients are significantly less likely than white patients to receive therapy for various types of cancer.

Researchers found that the efforts to close treatment gaps initiated in the 1990s have had little impact.

Racial disparities in cancer care started to appear in the early and 1990s, which lead to more attention and investment in ensuring access to care to all individuals. But it is unclear whether those efforts have led to any reduction in cancer treatment disparities.

To investigate, Cary P. Gross, M. D. and colleagues from the university mined the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER)-Medicare database to evaluate cancer care received by Medicare beneficiaries diagnosed with breast, colorectal, lung or prostate cancer from 1992 through 2002.

After identifying therapies for which racial disparities had been previously reported, the researchers determined whether there had been any changes in care for the over-all Medicare population or for white and black patients considered separately. A total of 7,775 colon, 1,745 rectal, 11,207 lung, 40,457 breast, and 82,238 prostate cancer cases were evaluated.

After the evaluation, the researchers found that for both black and white patients, there was little or no improvement in the proportion of patients receiving therapy for most cancers.

Also, there was no reduction in the magnitude of racial disparities between 1992 and 2002. Black patients were significantly less likely than white patients to receive therapy for cancers of the lung, breast, colon, and prostate. Racial disparities persisted even after limiting the analysis to patients who had access to a physician prior to their cancer diagnosis.

The findings of the study showed that there has been little improvement in the overall proportion of Medicare beneficiaries receiving cancer care. They also reveal that racial disparities have not decreased.

“Efforts in the last decade to mitigate cancer therapy disparities appear to have been unsuccessful,” the authors said.

The study is published in the Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society. (ANI)