According to a study published in the Sept. 15 issue of the journal Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, Black American cancer patients are less likely to question their doctors, they receive less medical information, and they are not as actively involved in their medical care compared to white patients. This may cause less-informed medical decisions, which can have a negative impact on medical care for black cancer patients and may account for racial differences in outcomes among cancer patients.
Researchers investigated how race influenced doctor-patient communication in the setting of patients with lung cancer and suspicious lung lesions, led by Howard S. Gordon, M.D. of the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. The investigators reviewed, transcribed, and analyzed audiotapes from 137 separate doctor-patient consultations.
The amount of information given by the doctor is influenced by the degree of patient engagement with the doctor.
When the information was initiated by the doctor, there were no differences in the amount of it. But differences in the amount of information provided by doctors, were there when prompted by the patient. Blacks were less likely than whites to raise query or concerns and also less likely to bring a friend or family member during the appointment.
When doctors and patients were of the same race, there was no difference in the doctor-provided information.
"While not directly negating the possibility that racial disparities in care are due to doctor bias or patient preferences, (these findings) suggest that disparities in medical care are related in part to the communicative dynamics of the encounter, particularly the degree to which patients are actively involved," the study authors wrote.