Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Addressing health disparities in cancer

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Cancer may be colorblind, but statistics show that minorities are most affected. Minorities not only have a higher risk of developing cancers such as prostate, colorectal and breast, but they are also more likely to die from the disease.

For National Minority Cancer Awareness Week, we’re exploring the issue and providing resources for low- or no-cost access to cancer screening exams.

Health disparities exist for a variety of reasons, including access to affordable healthcare. Cost impacts the decisions about when and where to seek care, as well as the type of treatment to have and when to start it. Minorities who lack health insurance and have low incomes oftentimes delay needed medical care.

Breast cancer is the most striking example.  More white women are diagnosed with cancer, yet more black women die from the disease. A recent study found that black women are 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than white women. Among men, black men have both the highest incidence and death rates, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Regarding cost concerns, another study showed that black and Hispanic breast cancer survivors were more than twice as likely as white women to have medical debt four years after treatment. The research, in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, also found that minority women were more likely to skip doctor appointments and take less medicine than prescribed due to cost.

Unlike in the past, mammography rates are now similar between black and white women. But diagnosis and treatment delays put black women at a disadvantage. According to the CDC:

  • 20% of black women, but only 12% of white women, with an abnormal mammogram wait more than 60 days for a diagnosis.
  • 31% of black women, but only 18% of white women, wait 30 days to begin treatment.

It may take years to reduce cancer incidence and death rates for minorities. But you can get started today by making healthy changes in your own life. Not only will you feel empowered but you may decrease your risk of cancer.

Several organizations offer low- or no-cost cancer screenings. We encourage you to take advantage of screenings near you.

Explore common cancer types.