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Lung cancer kills more people than any other form of cancer. African American men experience the highest rates of lung cancer. Racial disparities related to socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, and gender have been an issue in the United States for decades. These disparities affect minority groups and increase the burden of disease.

Populations including Blacks, Hispanics, the elderly, and members of the LGBTQ+ community have and continue to experience healthcare disparities. New findings have revealed an approach to combat these disparities and improve the treatment rates for all patients with lung cancer.

The National Cancer Institute funded a clinical study to evaluate the effectiveness of a multi-pronged approach. This approach consisted of three steps; a real-time warning system that worked in conjunction with patient electronic health records, feedback to clinicians on rates of treatment completion, and training nursing staff to engage patients and identify barriers that may exist.

Doctors were less likely to advise surgery for Black patients, and when advised to do so, patients were less likely to undergo surgery. In addition, it was revealed that when surgery was offered to Black individuals with multiple health issues, they almost always refused surgery. Dr. Cykert revealed his conclusion that an unconscious bias exists in the medical community in which doctors are less willing to recommend surgery to minorities.

Black patients with lung cancer reported health disparities. Many felt there is a lack of communication between themselves and their medical teams, often leading to treatment discontinuation. Some patients admitted that denial of their cancer diagnosis also played a role in delaying their treatment.

This multi-pronged approach is effective by sending an alert to a nurse when a patient misses an appointment. The nurse, who is expected to form an emotional bond with the patient, will then reach out to the patient and encourage them to manage their health. The multi-pronged approach can be applied in all areas of medicine.

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Based on this research and previous research, a call to action is made for healthcare professionals to acknowledge racial disparities in the workplace and implement a plan to counteract them. In addition, nursing professionals must work to form relationships with their patients. Combining these methods may minimize and one day, hopefully, eliminate the racial disparities that exist in the U.S. healthcare system [1].


[1] Eliminating Racial Disparities in Lung Cancer Treatment. (2019, March 5). National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/news-events/cancer-currents-blog/2019/lung-cancer-treatment-disparities-eliminated

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