New Study Sheds Light on Racial, Economic Inequality in Cancer Treatment

by Sokolove Law

After a diagnosis of mesothelioma, suddenly everything is changed — finances are challenged and stretched, and, in a haze of worry and shock, important decisions need to be made about treatment options.

Across the board, victims of mesothelioma, and their loved ones, all suffer from similar emotional and physical hardships. What’s often not discussed, however, is how one’s race and economic background can complicate these issues and determine, ultimately, the quality of care that one receives.

A new study from the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) discovered that, when it comes to the issue of mesothelioma treatment and quality of life, one’s race and economic background cannot be ignored. Before getting into the specifics of this issue, let’s acknowledge the fact that an overwhelming percentage of participants in this study — 52 percent — were facing some type of financial stress related to their treatment.

There is already too much to worry about when it comes to dealing with a cancer diagnosis — money should absolutely not be a guiding, or limiting factor in deciding on, or receiving, treatment options.

What the Statistics Reveal

Here’s where the disparity comes in — of the 52 percent found to be facing some type of financial hardship, 57 percent were blacks and 47 percent were whites. In addition, 31 percent of the black patients went into debt for their treatment, compared to 18 percent of whites.

The study’s author, Theresa Hastert, points out that, in the quest to receive proper care, “many patients experience changes to their financial situation that can include everything from cutting back on leisure spending to dipping into savings or selling assets, taking on debt, or even losing a home or declaring bankruptcy.” In considering this issue, however, it is important to remember that financial problems don’t just affect quality of life, but can also affect quality of care.

It goes without saying — no patient, or family, should have to choose between quality of care and quality of life. No patient should have to choose between losing their home or missing out on effective treatment. Unfortunately, the study found that black cancer survivors were “more likely to have made some treatment decisions based on cost concerns, such as avoiding an office visit or skipping doses of prescribed medicines.”

Unfortunately, “cost-cutting moves” such as these were made by 21 percent of blacks and about 15 percent of whites. This disparity between patients is representative, of course, of systemic issues in our society concerning opportunity and economic disparity. At the same time, this is a medical issue that affects us all equally. The inability for certain members of our society to receive cutting-edge treatment, or enter into promising clinical trials, slows down the progress of medical discovery. It’s an age-old truth that when some members of our society suffer, we all suffer.

Why Asbestos-Related Diseases Should Never Result in Personal Debt

No victim of asbestos-related diseases should have to skip a dose, or miss out on a clinical trial — especially when we consider that the long, corrupt history of asbestos has consistently made corporations very wealthy.

Unfortunately, when it comes to asbestos, the onus is partially on victims to address widespread and long-established injustice and corruption. Lawmakers in the United States have been slow to remedy this national health issue. The influence of corrupt corporations, and even politicians, had made the common sense act of banning asbestos an ongoing challenge.

In the meantime, it is necessary that we hold corrupt corporations financially accountable — so that victims can avoid the added stress and treatment limitations caused by financial hardship, but also in protest and in reaction to injustice. In the end, we must remember that money (and corresponding greed) allowed the issue of asbestos-related injury to persist long after it should have ended, and that it is precisely money (in the form of legal retribution) that, if utilized, will help make this an issue of the past.

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