The Color of Cancer:
U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center works to eliminate racial, ethnic health disparities, con't
What Can You Do?We asked our researchers what patients can do to help prevent health disparities. Here's what they said.
- If you don't understand something -- or you want to understand something better -- ask your doctor to explain it again. If you're feeling rushed, ask your doctor to slow down.
- Bring someone with you to your appointment so you can compare notes and discuss your situation later.
- Speak up about how you're feeling. If you're experiencing pain, make sure you tell your doctor.
- Join an advocacy group to help educate members of your community about cancer.
- Participate in a U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center Community Outreach event.
SMALL CHANGES, BIG GAINSArden Morris, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of surgery at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center, conducted a study of Medicare patients with colorectal cancer that showed that African-Americans were 23 percent less likely than whites to receive chemotherapy after surgery. All had access to care through Medicare. Whites and African-Americans were equally likely to see an oncologist after surgery, but African-Americans did not go on to receive chemotherapy.
Morris conducted a focus group in Detroit with African-Americans and whites, and preliminary results show that even though neither group fully understood why chemotherapy was recommended, whites were more likely to go ahead with it anyway. African-Americans wanted to understand why they needed more treatment before deciding to proceed with chemotherapy.
With this new information, Morris said, a simple intervention can be developed. Doctors could be trained to have patients repeat back their recommendations after a conversation to prevent misunderstandings. Over time, this may help doctors improve the way they communicate with patients.
"I think a lot of providers would be stunned to hear what patients believe," Morris said. "I really believe providers want to provide the best care. The problem is, they don't realize how little patients are taking away from the conversation."