By Liz Margolies, LCSW
Getting a diagnosis of cancer is frightening for everyone. But for many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) patients, the immediate concerns about treatment options and survival are compounded by an additional set of worries:
- “Should I come out to my healthcare providers?”
- “Will I be safe if I do?”
- “Will my chosen family be welcome?”
- “Will I be able to find the information I need to take care of my relationship, my sexuality, my fertility and my family?”
LGBT cancer patients and survivors are underserved and that is partly as a result of being underreported. No cancer registries collect information about gender identity or sexual orientation, leaving LGBT cancer survivors buried in the data and often invisible to healthcare providers. Treatment facilities and social service organizations may also be unaware of the true number of LGBT people they serve because their intake forms do not invite disclosure (coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender), and fear of discrimination keeps many patients in the closet. As a result, the healthcare system often fails to recognize LGBT patients and isn’t trained to meet their needs.
The American Cancer Society estimated in January 2014 that there were approximately 14.5 million Americans living with a history of cancer.… Continue reading →
By Kassandra I. Alcaraz, PhD, MPH
During National Minority Cancer Awareness Week and National Minority Health Month, the American Cancer Society, health agencies, and other organizations seek to raise awareness of health disparities, or health inequities, among racial and ethnic minority groups. Most of us have probably seen or heard the phrase “health disparities.” But what, exactly, does this phrase mean? And why is it important?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines a health disparity as “a particular type of health difference that is closely linked with social or economic disadvantage.”
These disadvantages include things like racial discrimination, racially-segregated neighborhoods, and social stratification (the inequitable distribution of privilege, power, wealth, and resources in our society), and they have resulted in unequal access to quality health care, health information, and health programs for racial and ethnic minority groups. These “root causes” not only make the nation unhealthier as a whole but also present real challenges to eliminating disparities.
Although health disparities are not limited to racial and ethnic minority populations, this particular month gives us a dedicated time to better understand disparities among these groups. In the United States, racial and ethnic minority populations bear a disproportionately high burden of disease such as cancer.… Continue reading →
By Carol DeSantis, MPH
In conjunction with Black History Month, the American Cancer Society has released Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans, statistics published every 2 years. The 2013 issue reveals encouraging cancer trends for African Americans, as well as areas where significant disparities remain or are growing. Cancer disparities, or health inequity, are caused by a number of societal problems that result in greater suffering and more people dying from cancer.
Death rates drop, but inequity remains
The great news is that overall cancer death rates have steadily decreased for African American men and women. In fact, the most recent data show that death rates dropped faster for African American men than men in any other racial or ethnic group. That’s caused the disparity in cancer death rates between African American and white men to shrink considerably. Cancer death rates among African American women are declining at a similar rate as those of white women.
Despite these declines, however, death rates for all cancers combined remain 33% higher in black men and 16% higher in black women, compared to white men and women. African American men also have higher death rates for most of the major cancer sites (including lung, prostate, colon/rectum, liver, pancreas, and others).… Continue reading →
By Tim Byers, MD, MPH
There are many definitions of health disparities, but my favorite is disparities are differences that should not exist. This definition reflects the social injustice in how some races and ethnicities suffer more from cancer than others.
I like this definition of disparities (or health inequity, as many people are calling it) because it can motivate us to fix the problem – the social, economic, cultural, and political barriers that keep some racial and ethnic minorities from getting cancer prevention, early detection, and state-of-the-art cancer treatment. This obviously can be harmful to racial and ethnic minorities.
But this definition is also a problem. It can cause us to focus so much on the differences that should not exist (the social and economic inequalities) that we ignore factors driving racial and ethnic differences that may actually have a positive influence on people’s risk of developing or dying from cancer. Why is that important? [more]
If we look at differences in cancer risk according to race/ethnicity we can see many examples where cancer risk, stage at diagnosis, and death rates are higher for racial/ethnic minorities. Prostate cancer and breast cancer among African Americans are clear disparities.… Continue reading →
Hispanics have lower cancer screening rates; are diagnosed with cancer at later stages
By Rebecca Siegel, MPH
A new Cancer Facts & Figures for Hispanics/Latinos has been released in conjunction with National Hispanic Heritage Month. This publication is updated every 3 years and is a resource for current information about cancer among Hispanics. But you may be wondering why we produce a 35-page report devoted solely to cancer statistics for Hispanics.
For 60 years the American Cancer Society’s Research department has promoted cancer prevention and control by providing cancer data in a user-friendly format called Cancer Facts & Figures. Over the years, new Facts & Figures publications have been developed to highlight a particular cancer type or a specific population. In 2000, to answer the increasing demand for more in-depth information on cancer in the growing Hispanic community, the inaugural Cancer Facts & Figures for Hispanics/Latinos was introduced.
Hispanics Fastest-Growing Minority in US
Promoting cancer prevention and control in the Hispanic community is more important than ever because Hispanics are the largest and fastest growing minority population in the United States.… Continue reading →
By Alvaro Carrascal, MD, MPH
These days we hear a lot about health disparities, cancer disparities, health equity, etc. What is this all about? And why do these terms seem to be more discussed now?
MedlinePlus, the National Institutes of Health’s website for patients, describes health disparities as “differences between groups of people. These differences can affect how frequently a disease affects a group, how many people get sick, or how often the disease causes death.”
For the World Health Organization (WHO), health equity is “the absence of unfair and avoidable or remediable differences in health among population groups defined socially, economically, demographically or geographically.”
Essentially, health equity is about everyone getting a fair shake when it comes to health and healthcare. [more]
So let’s see what that means in the real world. If we look at the numbers, we’ll see that cancer is not equally distributed across the population. For example:
- Hispanic women have the highest proportion of new cases for cervical cancer among all ethnic/racial groups.
- African Americans are more likely to develop cancer than any other racial or ethnic group.
These differences are not limited to racial and ethnic categories. If we consider education and income, there are differences in risk factors (factors that increase the chance of developing cancer) among groups.… Continue reading →