Understanding Racial Disparities in Cancer Treatment and Outcomes

The authors of this article summarize the current evidence surrounding racial disparities in cancer treatment and outcomes.

Key Findings:

  • Relative to Whites, Blacks have lower rates of screening for various cancers. Their diagnoses are made much later and they consistently are diagnosed with more advance stages of cancer, resulting in poorer survival rates.
  • Comorbid disease—especially heart disease, hypertension and diabetes—contributes to disparities in survival after cancer surgery.
  • Poor outcomes are seen for patients with both high and low socioeconomic status who are cared for in hospitals that disproportionately care for low-socioeconomic patients.
  • Minority and low-income patients underuse care, including surgery and chemotherapy, and have poorer cancer outcomes.
  • Black patients have poorer outcomes when treated in poorer quality settings, including hospitals with a high mix of Medicaid patients.

The authors call for more accurate and reliable data on patients and hospitals; and for expanded research methodologies. They also make a number of policy recommendations, among them:

  • Expand access to cancer care.
  • Expand and coordinate patient-centered tools for navigating hospitals and health systems.
  • Create, endorse and revise appropriate treatment algorithms.
  • Align incentives to hospitals with the elimination of disparities.