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Why Race Matters in Medical Care?

By on November 24, 2013

Black people with advanced colon cancer are less likely to get consultations with specialists and treatment with complex medicines than white people And those treatment differences may explain why black patients with the disease are 15 percent more likely to die than their white counterparts, researchers suggest.

“This disparity in treatment does result in survival differences that are quite substantial,” Dr. James Murphy told media.

Murphy is the study’s senior author and an assistant professor in the Department of Radiation Medicine and Applied Sciences at the University of California, San Diego.

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., Murphy and his colleagues write in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Previous studies have found black people are more likely to develop colon cancer, have more advanced cancer when diagnosed and are more likely to die of the disease than patients of other races.

Murphy added, however, that his team’s study cannot explain why the differences in treatment exist. Differences in healthcare access, doctor biases and patient mistrust could play a role. Murphy said it’s hard to know what patients can do to make sure they don’t fall into the disparity gap.

“I think for providers just understanding that there is a disparity out there may make them aware and help reduce the disparity,” he said. “But we do need more research to identify individual barriers.”

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