Study Examines Racial Disparities in Colon Cancer Treatment
Aug 19, 2005 - 4:58:38 AM

Elderly black and white colon cancer patients are equally likely to consult with medical oncologists, but they do not receive recommended adjuvant treatment at the same rates after this consultation, according to a new study.

Studies have shown that black patients are less likely than white patients to receive screening and diagnostic tests and some treatments.

A 2001 study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, reported that black patients were less likely than white patients to receive recommended chemotherapy for stage III colon cancer. To determine whether health care system factors, including those related to the hospitals in which patients are treated and the doctors who treat them, may help explain this disparity, Laura-Mae Baldwin, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of Washington in Seattle, and colleagues used data from several sources to examine receipt of chemotherapy after stage III colon cancer resection in 5,294 elderly black and white Medicare-insured patients.

Nearly 80% of both black and white patients consulted with a medical oncologist. Among those who received a consultation, 70.4% of white patients but only 59.3% of black patients received chemotherapy. The disparity was highest among patients ages 66 to 70, and approximately half of this disparity was attributable to patient, physician, hospital, and environmental factors, 27% to surgical length of stay and neighborhood socioeconomic status, and only 12% to health systems. The authors conclude that more qualitative research is needed to understand the factors that contribute to the lower receipt of chemotherapy by black patients.

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