Examining intersectionality to find disparities in cancer care

disparities in cancer care
© Oksana Ryzhinskaya

The analysis of 28 studies has found that the intersection of sexual minority status with race/ethnicity is associated with lower cancer screenings

Intersectionality when concerning healthcare is the idea that in order to understand health trends, you must recognise that health is shaped by multiple factors. Factors such as race, class, income, education, age, ability, sexual orientation, immigration status, ethnicity and geography all come into consideration when looking at healthcare trends as wholly as possible.

Social categorisations and personal identities are interconnected – and without taking these into account you cannot fully understand which demographics are being discriminated against within healthcare.

The experience of a queer Black woman living in a rural area is not the sum of being queer, Black, and in a rural location, as these identities are not mutually exclusive. Each person’s situation is different and without intersectional healthcare, minority groups are being left behind.

Finding disparities in cancer care

Published in Psycho-Oncology a new study examines published research on intersectionality relative to disparities in cancer care. By examining 28 studies the team found that the intersection of sexual minority status with race/ethnicity was association with lower diagnostic screening, lower receipt of preventative services, and an increase in distrust of the healthcare system.

The analysis uncovered the various ways in which patients with intersectional identities may be at higher risk for negative cancer outcomes.

“The findings in this study serve to highlight how care providers need to shift from the traditional unidimensional understanding of patients to a more holistic perspective using an ‘intersectional’ lens that accommodates a more multidimensional, complex, and nuanced understanding of patients and how they self-identify,” said senior author Doctor Timothy M. Pawlik, from The Ohio State University.

“A greater openness and understanding of patient identity—and the intersection of various identities—is needed to effectively address inequities in cancer care and scholarship.”

Minorities are being hit the hardest

The analysis showed that sexual minority women, particularly individuals of colour were less likely to engage in cancer prevention behaviours prior to diagnosis. Race and socioeconomic status (SES) were important facts in patient care/survivorship with worse outcomes among non-white women of low SES.

“Patients with intersectional identities often experience barriers of cancer care that adversely impact screening, diagnosis, treatment, as well as survivorship” according to the study’s results.

“The use of an intersectional lens as a future clinical and research framework will facilitate a more multidimensional and holistic approach to the care of cancer patients”

For more information, find the full study here


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