By: Caylie Guinn – Health Educator
October is here, which means it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Affecting over 250,000 women each year, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women worldwide (and the second most common cancer among all people). Sadly, though, many people are still underinformed, particularly those who are underinsured/uninsured or with limited access to healthcare. Because of this, cancer treatment centers are seeing a dramatic increase in the racial health disparity between cancer patients.
What is a racial health disparity?
A disparity refers to an inequality or unfair difference between groups. A “racial health disparity” occurs when treatment of the same health concern differs between two or more racial/ethnic groups. Usually, this difference occurs because of factors beyond a what a patient chooses for treatment.
Though national statistics show that Caucasian women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, research reveals a dramatic disparity in deaths between Caucasian and African American patients. In fact, in Indiana alone, African American women are 38% more likely to die from breast cancer than Caucasian women. (Read the full report on this disparity and its factors here.)
Why is this the case?
The National Cancer Society estimates that 25% of this can be linked to biology, while 75% of this disparity is caused by economic and social factors. Below are some of the most common issues behind this disparity:
- Health Insurance
- Location/availability of healthcare providers
- Location and lack of transportation make it virtually impossible for many women to seek treatment. Fortunately, Little Red Door offers transportation assistance for qualifying clients.
- Patient-Provider Relations
- Up to 75% of medical visits for African Americans are racially discordant (the care provider is a different race than the patient). Research shows that racially discordant visits are often shorter, less comprehensive, and less patient-centered, resulting in a lower likelihood of follow-up visits and compliance with treatment plans.
- Poverty & Low-Income Stressors
- Not only is it harder for low-income patients to find, get to, and pay for health care, these patients often deal with many additional outside stressors (job security, family management, etc.) that may influence a lower priority towards healthcare.
- Cultural & Religious Competence
- Health care providers may overlook the cultural and religious background of patients, leading to a distrust of the care provided and a lack of proper treatment.
- African American Hoosiers are 10% more likely to be obese than Caucasian Hoosiers. Because over half of all breast cancer patients are obese at the time of diagnoses, research shows there is a relationship between weight and cancer risk.
- Tobacco Use
- Though the numbers are declining, 6% of African American adults still smoke. Tobacco products of any kind have been shown to increase the risk of cancer, including breast cancers in both men and women.
What can we do?
Unfortunately, there are very few guarantees when it comes to cancer prevention. However, there are several things one can do to reduce the risk and maintain a healthy lifestyle, even after diagnosis:
- Be aware of risk factors
- Stay active, both physically and mentally
- Avoid obesity with a healthy diet and lifestyle
- Do not smoke
- Attend regular screenings and maintain proper treatment
- Find support groups or participate in social activities
Luckily, Little Red Door Cancer Agency is here to help. LRD offers free cancer services, cancer prevention education, and a safe space for cancer patients, survivors, and their loved ones. A few of the services we offer include:
- Treatment navigation & support
- Transportation services
- Medical supplies
- Prevention education
- Beauty boutique
- Door to Wellness Program
- Massage Therapy
- Walking Club
- Cooking Classes
At Little Red Door, we strive to make the most of life and the least of cancer.