Perceived Discrimination Reduces Screening Rates

When minority men and women felt that they were being discriminated against by their health care providers, they were less likely to be screened for breast or colorectal cancer.

During a health survey 11,000 people in California answered “yes” or “no” to the question “was there ever a time that you would have gotten better medical care if you had belonged to a different ethnic group?”

Women who answered yes, indicating they felt that they were discriminated against in their care, were 34 percent less likely to be screened for colorectal cancer and were tested for breast cancer 48 percent less often.

Perceived discrimination didn’t affect colorectal screening for men overall.  However, if men had a regular source of medical care and felt they were discriminated against, they were 70 percent less likely to be screened.

LaVera M. Crawley, MD, MPH from the Stanford University Center for Biomedical Ethics commented,

We have yet to achieve bias-free health care. This has serious public health implications as we know that higher levels of screening lead to lower levels of mortality. Clinicians need to be aware that they may be sending signals, even unintentionally, that lead minorities to believe they are being discriminated against.

SOURCE: Crawley et al., Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention, August 2008.  Published online August 6, 2008.

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