Researchers at Yale University searched the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Medicare database and found that there has been little improvement in treatment levels for Black men with prostate cancer. Statistics were similar for patients with lung, breast, and colon cancers.
Advocates are challenged to identify why this is happening and what we can do to change the dynamic. We have been good at doing awareness programs but the more difficult challenge is finding ways for men who need treatment access to treatment if they do not have insurance. If we work to pass the Thomas J. Manton Prostate Cancer Act that is one step we can take to alleviate the problem but the problem may be deeper than lack of access to treatment. Help make this potential legislation a reality by clicking here.
Unfortunately this is only a first step. Insurance coverage is only one potential part of the problem. Are there physicians in the communities where the patients live? Do attitudes about the medical community and treatments create a barrier? Are there myths about prostate cancer treatment in the Black community? Are there biases that cause barriers to make less likely for this population to have treatment? Can you think of other reasons why this discrepancy occurs?
The challenge is to bring all the stakeholders together for a real discussion and to attempt to find solutions. I would hope that the CDC or American Cancer Society would take a leadership in finding solutions. Rather than focusing on the screening controversy, it is time to look at the death rates in the Black community and take real steps to lower the rate. If they do this then the public health groups in the states will follow. It is important that as a society we take steps to be sure that men who need treatment can get that treatment. It is obvious that men are dying. Prostate cancer is a major cancer killer in the US. Black men die at twice the rate as white men. Advocates can raise the alarm but the medical community needs to step up, examine their system and take steps to change the dynamic. We can help but we cannot do it alone.
As one expert said in one linked article, The lack of improvement may be because efforts against treatment disparities in oncology have only recently shifted from documentation to assessing interventions, Dr. Gross and colleagues suggested. The key to bridging the racial gap may be quality improvement for all patients, they said.”Perhaps a rising tide will raise all boats,” they said. They added, “future efforts to reduce disparities should be incorporated into a larger quality improvement framework, as our results suggest that all patients would benefit from greater attention to measuring and improving quality of cancer care.”
Click here to read an article about this study.
Click here to read another article about this study.