Despite what you may have heard, cancer is NOT an equal opportunity killer. As we begin National Minority Cancer Awareness Week, April 16-21, 2012, I’d like visitors to http://thecancermd.com/ to remember that single fact. While oncologists try to be positive and hopeful with our patients whenever possible, we also need to be realists, with eyes wide open. The best and the brightest doctors and scientists are making major strides toward curing more patients with various cancer types. The past decade has seen major advances in cancer care and outcomes for some groups. Nevertheless, patients diagnosed in later stages of disease tend to fare worse than those who are diagnosed early. These patients with stage III and IV cancer are more likely to die of their cancer than those diagnosed in stage I or stage II. Overwhelmingly, these patients are poor and disproportionately, they are from minority groups.
Here are a few important facts about the unequal burden of cancer in America:
- African American men are more likely to be diagnosed with PROSTATE cancer, more likely to have advanced cancer, and more likely to die of their cancer than any other group.
- The 5-year survival for African American women with breast cancer is 10-15% lower than that for white women. After correcting for insurance status and other factors, a significant survival difference remains.
- Although the absolute death rate from CERVICAL cancer in the U.S. is low, the relative death rate from cervical cancer is 50% higher for Hispanic women than for white women.
- Access to cancer screening tests (like the Pap test) can be limited for many poor and minority women.
The medical term for the unequal burden of malignant diseases is cancer health disparities. An excellent resource for those who wish to learn more is the center to reduce cancer health disparities: http://crchd.cancer.gov/.
- Patrick Maguire MD