Each year World Cancer Day is observed on February 4th and is an opportunity to reflect on global advancements, trends, and hurdles in cancer research, diagnosis, and treatment. Though substantial progress continues to be made for cancer screening, diagnosis, and treatment, cancer remains the leading cause of death, globally. This year’s theme for World Cancer Day is “Close the Care Gap”: a three-year initiative addressing issues of inequity in cancer care.
While cancer affects all population groups, there are social, economic, and environmental disadvantages that create obstacles for groups of people to receive adequate diagnosis and care. Taking steps not only to improve cancer treatment but remove barriers to care for certain populations are necessary measures for all sectors involved in the fight against cancer.
Contributing Factors In Cancer Disparities
Bringing awareness to disparities in cancer care is the first step in bridging the gap for adequate screening, diagnosis, and treatment. In the U.S., healthcare access is the most common disparity affecting cancer patients. Demographics of people without access to healthcare are more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage cancer, unable to receive adequate care, and have an increased rate of mortality.
Improving healthcare access is an important first step but is not the only disparity to consider. Differences in race, geography, socioeconomics, sexual orientation, age, gender identity, and income also influence cancer treatment disparities. Making changes to address disparities is not always simple or easy. Often, policy change is required to overcome systemic social, racial, and institutional inequalities.
Examples from the American Association of Cancer Research of cancer disparities include:
- African American women have twice as many incidences of triple-negative breast cancer compared to white American women
- African American men with prostate cancer have a death rate that is double that of other racial groups
- Men living in the Appalachian region of the U.S. are 26% more likely to have lung cancer than men in other regions of the U.S.
- Compared to white women, Hispanic women are 69% more likely to receive an advanced stage breast cancer diagnosis
- Patients with metastatic bladder cancer who are of low socioeconomic status are 50% less likely to receive chemotherapy compared with those of high socioeconomic status
- Adolescents and young adults surviving two or more years after a Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis who lived in low socioeconomic neighborhoods had 29% higher likelihood of respiratory system diseases compared with those in high socioeconomic neighborhoods
While cancer treatment makes great advancements, some groups are getting left behind. Patients who have to travel long distances for screening sites or have low incomes are receiving late-stage diagnoses. Patients with low health literacy or without paid medical leave are not receiving care under the same guidelines as their counterparts, and people with more education are less likely to die prematurely, regardless of race or ethnicity.
Clinical Trial Representation
Creating better access to clinical trials is another step that can improve cancer care disparities. Whether it is a lack of trust or lack of access, there is a shortage of diversity in clinical research participation, and population groups with cancer disparities are underrepresented in clinical trials. Research findings may therefore not be applicable to the underrepresented.
If progress is to continue, all segments of the population need to be included and considered. Improving access to care, diversifying clinical trials, examining genetic factors, and actively pursuing the demographics of people not receiving adequate screening and care are steps that need to be taken by all sectors involved in cancer care. PFSP Specialty Pharmacy works to remove obstacles to ensure patients receive the care they need. Learn more about financial assistance, our 340B Program, and other ways PFSP is helping patients receive the care and attention they need.
PFSP Specialty Pharmacy provides patients and their physicians an exceptionally high standard of care with our growing team of specialized pharmacists and staff. Our dedicated team of pharmacists focus on improving adherence for patients and work to find an approach that works best for them. Bringing a fresh take on what a Specialty Pharmacy can and should be, we are committed to the care of our patients. We take pride in being an ethical resource within our community and strive each day to help our patients live enriching and full lives.