According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the life expectancy and overall health for most Americans has improved in recent years, but not all groups have benefited. Cancer incidence and death statistics reveal that certain groups in the United States suffer disproportionately from cancer and its effects. Research shows overwhelming evidence that racial and ethnic minorities experience disparities in access to quality cancer care.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) defines “cancer health disparities” as adverse differences in cancer incidence (new cases), cancer prevalence (all existing cases), cancer death (mortality), cancer survivorship, and burden of cancer or related conditions that exist among specific population groups in the United States.
Many factors contribute to disparities in cancer incidence and death among underserved racial and ethnic groups. Research shows that people from minority groups often experience more obstacles to receiving care, are more likely to be uninsured, may be in poorer health overall, and are at greater risk of receiving poor quality care than other Americans. In addition, those from medically underserved populations are more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage diseases that might have been treated more effectively or cured if diagnosed earlier. For example, African American/Blacks, Asian Americans, Hispanic/Latinos, American Indians, Alaska Natives, and underserved Whites are more likely that the general population to have higher cancer incidence and mortality rates for some types of cancer.
Why should we care? How can we not?
How can inequalities in cancer care be eliminated?
The CDC tells us that increasing early cancer detection, promoting healthy lifestyles, and expanding access to health care helps reduce inequalities in cancer among groups who are at greatest risk. To eliminate disparities, public health agencies, health care providers, and communities must work together.
According to the Commission to End Health Care Disparities Strategic Plan (2011-2013), success in removing disparities will be realized when all of the following occurs:
• All healthcare professionals are aware of health care disparities
• Healthcare professionals actively work in their practice to eliminate disparities
• All patients have access to and receive patient centered, equitable, effective, safe, timely, and efficient care
What is the LIVESTRONG Foundation doing to end cancer care disparities?
The LIVESTRONG Foundation works to provide support for all people affected by cancer. We believe that all patients deserve to have access to timely patient centered care. We provide free resources and one-on-one cancer support services.
The Foundation also recognizes the important role that healthcare professionals can play in their practices to eliminate cancer care disparities. We collaborate with more than a dozen healthcare professional organizations to provide free education and resources to help physicians, nurses and nurse practitioners, physician assistants, social workers and other healthcare professionals support patients and take steps to end disparities in cancer care.
Free LIVESTRONG-sponsored educational resources are available online through:
• Nurse Oncology Education Program
• American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) University
• ASCO Cancer.Net
What can you do to help remove barriers that lead to disparities?
You can take action to help others:
• Tell your healthcare providers about the free educational resources sponsored by the LIVESTRONG Foundation.
• If you have experienced cancer care barriers, share your story with your community, and ask for change.
• When someone you know is diagnosed with cancer, tell them to contact LIVESTRONG Navigation Services to get free, one-on-one support and resources.
It is easy to help-and it is a very good thing to do.