Colorectal Cancer Test Use Among Californians of Mexican Origin

Influence of Language Barriers

Colorectal cancer has declined 26 percent among non-Latino Whites in California, compared to an 8 percent decline among Latinos. Routine screening for colorectal cancer (CRC) increases early diagnosis and improves survival rates.

To determine whether limited English proficiency among Mexican-Americans contributed to this health disparity, researchers used data from the California Health Interview Survey (2005). In California, Mexican-Americans represent 77 percent of Latinos.

Having no CRC test (fecal occult blood test or endoscopy) was associated with being younger, Mexican-American, not having a high school diploma, living below the federal poverty level, not having a usual source of health care, not having health insurance, not seeing a doctor in the previous year and not getting a recommendation from a doctor for a CRC test.

Some 43 percent of Mexican-Americans never had a CRC test compared to 22 percent of non-Latino Whites. Mexican-Americans, more so that non-Latino Whites, reported language barriers—45 percent had limited English proficiency and had difficulty understanding the doctor due to language.

While both Mexican-Americans and non-Latino Whites admitted putting off having a CRC test because they thought it was “too painful, embarrassing or unpleasant,” more Mexican-Americans than others said it was because they didn’t have a doctor.