02/18/2014 12:55 pm ET

Hispanics Are Not Benefitting Equally From Improvements In This Cancer Treatment

Jan Halaska via Getty Images

Researchers have noted that there are three groups that miss out on the benefits of advanced colon cancer care the most: Hispanics, African Americans and the elderly.

In a study from the American Cancer Society, data revealed minority patients and those over the age of 65 were least likely to receive treatment with the latest colon cancer technologies available.

“We know from previous studies that when people of any race get equal care they have similar outcomes. But studies show there are significant inequalities in the dissemination of new treatments, likely leading to the gaps in survival which our analysis found,” said Dr. Helmneh Sineshaw, leader of the study in an interview with the HealthDay News.

Survival rates for Asian and non-Hispanic white patients have improved significantly while Hispanics, African Americans and people over the age of 65 have seen little change.

Current statistics show colon cancer survival rate for non-Hispanic whites has risen from 10 to 16 percent over the last five years, with Asian patients experiencing a similar increase from 11 percent to 18 percent. Hispanics, however, only saw an increase from approximately 14 percent to 16 percent, with African Americans jumping from 8.6 percent to 9.8 percent.

The percentage of improvement for Hispanics and African Americans was considered minimal enough to not be statistically significant for the research.

“The reasons why ethnic minorities are not getting equal treatment are complicated, but likely include poorer health coming into the system, and lower socioeconomic status, which clearly leads to barriers to good health care. Those same factors likely lead to less aggressive treatment for older patients, as well,” Sineshaw explained.

Dr. Richard Wender, Chief Cancer Control Officer for the American Cancer Society, stated the study showed the direct impact of what happens when not everyone is given the same level of health care.

“We need a concerted effort to make sure all Americans, regardless of skin color, age, or socioeconomic status, reap the lifesaving benefits of better cancer care,” stated Wender in a press release.

While there is no clear indication as to why Hispanics, African Americans and the elderly are missing out when it comes to new colon cancer treatments, experts speculate delayed care, cost, cultural hurdles, and communication barriers may all play a role.

Hispanics in particular experience a number of disparities already when it comes to colon cancer care. According to the American Cancer Society, colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death for Hispanic men and the third leading cause of cancer deaths among Hispanic women.

“There is a myth in the Hispanic community that colon cancer is a man’s disease. Colon cancer does not discriminate against gender or race. It is a largely preventable disease. Colonoscopy screening can detect polyps and remove them before they turn into cancer,” said Marta L. Davila, M.D. with the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, to Hispanic Lifestyle.

“I encourage all Hispanics age 50 and over to speak with their doctor about colon cancer screening. If you have a family history of the disease, you may need to begin screening before age 50.”

Hispanics and other minorities need to be aware of their risk as well as the fact they are least likely to be offered the most advanced colon cancer treatments. Knowledge can help prompt conversations with physicians and may ultimately improve treatment outcomes.

Originally published on VOXXI as Latinos among least likely to receive updated cancer treatment


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