Blacks More Willing to Go the Distance to Treat Cancer

New study finds African-Americans are the most willing of any ethnicity to deplete their finances in hopes of surviving cancer.

Posted: 04/26/2011 01:32 PM EDT

African-Americans are more willing than whites to do whatever it takes financially to live longer after being diagnosed with lung or colorectal cancer, according to a study published today by the journal of the American Cancer Society.

Researchers studied the willingness of 4,214 people who were newly diagnosed with lung or colorectal cancer to use their own money and resources to further extend their lives. Blacks were the most willing to deplete their funds for treatment, with 80 percent saying they would use their available funds. Seventy-two percent of Asians were willing to deplete their funds, as were 54 percent of whites and 69 percent of Hispanics.

A lot of factors were taken into account, including income, what stage of the disease they were in, how long the individual thought they had left to live, quality of life, and age. Despite all of the factors considered, Blacks still remained 2.4 times more likely to expend every financial option available to extend their lives than whites were. The availability of insurance had no statistical effect on the results, by race.

"As new cancer-treatment options emerge, patients are asked to make complex decisions that often involve tradeoffs between quality and quantity of life," said Michelle Martin,  who co-authored the study. “A key tenet of delivering high-quality, patient-centered care is understanding and respecting patients' treatment decisions. Our results highlight the fact that personal finances can influence the decisions patients make about their treatment."

Cancer care can cost around $100,000 and may only add a few months to a person’s life. Patients didn’t change their answers when asked if they’d prefer treatment that would extend their life as much as possible, even if it meant going broke, or would they want treatment that was cheaper, even if it meant not living as long?

The study didn’t make an attempt to look into the motivation behind the Black participants’ tenacity, but religious beliefs and the possibility that doctors may be withholding information are noted as possible theories. What do you think, though—would you be willing to exhaust every financial avenue to survive cancer, even just a few extra months?


(Photo: Chicago Tribune/MCT/Landov)