Perceived bias deprives cancer patients of screening

August 6th, 2008 - 12:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Aug 6 (IANS) Minority men and women who feel health care providers discriminated against them were less likely to be screened for colorectal or breast cancer, according to a report. “We have yet to achieve bias-free health care. Clinicians need to be aware that they may be sending signals, even unintentionally, that lead minorities to believe they are being discriminated against,” said LaVera M. Crawley, an assistant professor at the Stanford University Center for Biomedical Ethics.

“Exactly what those signals are will need to be determined in future studies, but the relationship between perceived discrimination and failing to get regular screenings is strong.”

Crawley and colleagues analysed data from the California Health Interview Survey, which examined cancer screening trends among African-American, American-Indian/Alaskan-Native, Asian and Latino adults. The data set included 11,245 respondents.

“Respondents answered yes or no to ‘was there ever a time that you would have gotten better medical care if you had belonged to a different ethnic group?’ However, we were not able to ask why they felt discriminated against,” Crawley said.

If minority women perceived racial discrimination, they were 34 percent less likely to be screened for colorectal cancer and 48 percent less likely to be screened for breast cancer, compared with women of any racial group who did not perceive discrimination, researchers found.

The results were slightly different among minority men. Overall, men who perceived racial discrimination were no less likely to be screened for colorectal cancer than those who did not perceive discrimination. However, if they had a regular source of health care, they were 70 percent less likely to receive colorectal screening if they perceived racial discrimination.

According to Crawley, the consequences for delayed screening are dramatic. If detected early, five-year survival rates for colorectal and breast cancer are approximately 90 percent. However, if caught in later stages, the survival rate for colorectal cancer is 10 percent and 23 percent for breast cancer.

“The longer someone delays screening the worse the outcome. Perception of discrimination may be driving the differences we see in outcomes among minorities,” said Crawley.

These findings appeared in the August issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

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