New study reviews the systemic gaps in cancer diagnosis, pinpointing early detection technologies as tool to reduce care disparities and patient risk
Washington, D.C. – Today at the National Minority Quality Forum (NMQF) Summit on Health Disparities and Health Braintrust, Gary A. Puckrein, Ph.D., President and CEO of NMQF, announced a new paper entitled “Late-Stage Diagnosis of Unscreened Cancers: A Health Disparity,” exploring the role of late-stage cancer diagnosis in disparities in cancer care.
Despite significant advancements in the detection and treatment of cancer in recent decades, cancer is still the second-leading cause of death in the United States. Racial and ethnic minorities continue to bear a higher cancer burden, and late-stage diagnosis of unscreened cancers remains disproportionately higher among Black and Brown communities. Across many forms of cancer, racial and ethnic minorities often experience worsened mortality and survival outcomes compared to their non-Hispanic white (NHW) counterparts.
With recommended screenings only available for five types of cancer – breast, cervical, colon, prostate, and high-risk lung cancer, the vast majority of cancers are diagnosed in later stages. Across many of those unscreened cancers, such as esophageal, ovarian, pancreatic, and stomach, individuals who are Black, Hispanic, or American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) are more often diagnosed in the distant, or later, stages of cancer compared to NHW individuals.
Extending the benefits of early detection to more cancers, and to more people, could play a significant role in reducing the risk of poor outcomes for cancer patients, particularly minority patients. Increasing screening rates and ensuring equitable access to new screening technologies will expand the benefits of early detection to more people and more cancers.
“To reduce patient risk and close systemic gaps in the cancer care continuum, we must catch cancer earlier in minorities,” said Gary A. Puckrein, Ph.D., President and CEO of NMQF. “Early detection technology, along with continued persistence on improving access to current recommended screenings, are promising ways to improve health outcomes for minorities.”
The new report explains that one important way to expand earlier detection to more cancers is with multi-cancer early detection (MCED) technologies, new, innovative tests that use a blood draw to detect multiple types of cancer before symptoms develop. To realize the promise of these tests, policy and public health measures are needed to ensure broad access, according to the report. In addition, policymakers must consider incentives to drive those innovations, guidelines that keep pace with advancements, and better measures for assessing the impact of early detection and screening in minority communities.
About the National Minority Quality Forum
The National Minority Quality Forum assists health care providers, professionals, administrators, researchers, policymakers, and community and faith-based organizations in delivering appropriate health care to minority communities. This assistance is based on providing the evidence in the form of science, research, and analysis that will lead to the effective organization and management of system resources to improve the quality and safety of health care for the entire population of the U.S., including minorities. For more information, please visit www.nmqf.org.
Kelly Ann Collins