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How to Bridge the Information Gap and Overcome Distrust When Treating Women of Color

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August 31, 2020

Improving Inequities and Validating Your Black Patients’ Concerns

  • Women of color are hit hard by racial inequality in the U.S. health care system
  • Use telemedicine and the Internet to better inform these women about their cancer risks and preventive measures
  • Overcome distrust by validating your Black patients’ fears and concerns
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Two different realities exist when it comes to cancer care in this country. People of color face the highest rates of cancer, and of cancer mortality, than any other racial or ethnic group, according to the National Cancer Institute. Black women in particular have higher death rates, despite having a lower incidence of cancer overall. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Medical Oncologist, Dr. Elizabeth Comen, says doctors need to do a better job of not only treating these women, but also of getting information to them.

Research suggests that large information gaps put Black women at a disadvantage when it comes to understanding their risks, as well as being aware of preventive measures such as prophylactic surgery or chemopreventive medications. The ability to reach these women with telemedicine and through the internet is crucial, Dr. Comen tells SurvivorNet Connect.

Another barrier to quality cancer care is the distrust people of color have for the health care system in general, and for medical research, which dates back to the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study. Dr. Comen says the health care community owes it to Black women to better understand why their lack of trust exists, and to validate their fears. “The more that we can listen first, and validate, I think we will work hard to develop that rapport and that trust so that everyone can get the best possible care.”