Why are black patients more likely to refuse lung cancer surgery?

Of those diagnosed with early stage lung cancer, 69 percent of black patients opted for surgery, compared to 83 percent of white patients.

MedPage Today reports the findings from a cohort study in the Archives of Surgery. All the patients had Medicare, making insurance a non-factor.

Possible reasons include different racial-based beliefs, including that blacks “were more likely to believe that surgery accelerated tumor spread,” and that they were more likely to believe a cure was possible without surgery, stemming from an inherent distrust of the medical system.

Another reason, which is also seen in cases of cardiac care, is that physicians who treat black patients “had less access to high-quality subspecialists compared with physicians treating white patients.”

So, in the end, is the racial bias on the part of doctors, or the belief system of black patients responsible for finding? The authors could draw no conclusions, but I suspect it’s probably a bit of both.

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