Tag Archive for: colon cancer health disparities

What Are Common Colon Cancer Health Disparities?

What Are Common Colon Cancer Health Disparities? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What are common colon cancer health disparities? Dr. Suneel Kamath explains what a health disparity is, the groups impacted by these differences, and how the medical community addresses them in colon cancer care.

Dr. Suneel Kamath is a medical oncologist at the Cleveland Clinic Cancer Institute. Learn more about Dr. Kamath.

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Transcript: 

Katherine:  

Disparities in healthcare can impact a patient’s experiences and outcomes. What are some common health disparities?

Dr. Kamath:  

Yeah, there are so many. I think with colorectal cancer in particular, access is really a huge one. People who are in underserved communities, often people of color, have less access due to systemic racism in healthcare and in insurance, lack of opportunity with employment. I’ve always thought having a purely employer-based healthcare system is not the smartest idea.  

People who are often the sickest are the least able to work and the least able to maintain their health insurance. It does a disservice to our population to have thing set up that way. Yeah, I think that’s a huge barrier. I think there’s also a lot of stigma, especially amongst people of color, around colonoscopies, things to do with your colon and rectum and whatnot. I think that’s something we also need to work on, to normalize that as something that should be done regularly and that this isn’t a bad thing. It’s just something we all have to do. 

Katherine:  

Right. Well, what is being done by the medical community to address these imbalances? 

Dr. Kamath: 

I’ve really seen, I think, a legitimate push towards community outreach in the last few years. Unfortunately, we’ve known about these disparities for decades and I think a lot has been said about addressing them since the ‘80s and ‘90s.  

But to be honest with you, I don’t think very much was really done until recently. What I’ve seen is a really concerned effort to put resources into identifying what are those barriers. Where is the distrust coming from? Who are trusted sources in your community? We’re tapping into pastors and preachers and the barbershop guy. You don’t ask people, “Who do you trust to get your information from?” If you don’t ask the question you’re never going to know. 

Recently, I think we’ve actually really done the work to find out what is going to motivate you to get something done? What’s going to make it feel normal to you and having trust healthcare? We’re seeing a lot more engagement, I think, as a result of that.  

Katherine:  

Are members of the medical community going out into the African American community to find out who they should be talking to?  

Dr. Kamath:  

We have been, actually. I reviewed a grant – just to speak of Cleveland Clinic in particular, a couple of years ago that the project that is being funded by it is still ongoing. Basically, we conducted focus groups of people at church. After the service was done, we conducted a focus group to ask them, “What are your thoughts about screening?” It was for colon cancer and for others as well. “What are your thoughts about this? What are your fears about it? What are things we could do to make you feel more comfortable with accessing this part of your care? Who do you go to to get trusted information?”  

As a result of that, doing it in their community, in the church setting where they feel safe and comfortable, we saw significant spike in the number of people who came for colonoscopies, for mammograms. We do PSA testing there and we set up a lab there. We found a big spike in the number of people who got those things done and we identified quite a few people who had cancer at early stages and we were able to cure them at much earlier stages than otherwise.