The President's Cancer Panel released a report last month confirming what many us have known all along: Most of the research done on how to treat cancer is geared heavily toward whites.
With the number of new cases of minorities developing cancer very high, the panel's report serves as federal acknowledgment that something must be done. The report also addresses the need for health care professionals to be better trained to deal with other cultures in order to better serve diverse patients.
"As the cultural landscape of our nation continues its transformation, the one-size-fits-all approach to cancer screening guidelines, prevention and treatment is no longer appropriate," said LaSalle D. Leffall, Jr., M.D., chair of the panel. "A more accurate understanding of cancer risk factors among diverse populations and improved training in cultural competency are critical steps toward reducing the national burden of cancer."
Because the rate of cancer is expected to almost double between 2010 and 2030, the panel is making this call to action to ensure the health care system is prepared to deal with what's to come.
Here are some of the panel’s recommendations:
—Sociological factors be added to the mix to better understand diverse populations and the health disparities, not just genetics.
—Cancer screening guidelines should be checked to make sure they work across diverse populations.
—Researchers have to study how the new demographics have influenced cancer risk, incidence and mortality.
—Health care providers should think about patients' cultural and economic issues when suggesting cancer prevention and treatment.
—Culture and language interpreters should be valued on medical staff because understanding cultures is a huge part of medical and research training.
—Research should focus, for now, on the populations that have the highest risk of disease because of their heritage.
—Cancer researchers and medical staff should be more diverse to aid translation, care and, ultimately, in lessing disparities.