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African-Americans Pose Less Questions To Treating Doctors

A new study published in the September 15, 2006 issue of CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, says that African-Americans are least likely to// ask questions regarding their illness to their doctors. The study says that the level of interest displayed by Caucasian patients in their health is lacking in African Americans. This fact may lead to the African-Americans making less-informed decisions and account for the racial differences in medical care.

Racial disparities in cancer outcomes are well documented in the scientific literature. Though biological differences in African-American and Caucasian populations are being investigated, there is a growing body of evidence that indicates distinct treatment patterns based on race may account for a significant part of the outcome differences. The literature is not consistent regarding whether racially distinct treatment patterns are due to patient preferences or physician biases.

New data suggest that problems in doctor-patient communication may account for at least some of the disparity. Studies show patients make most medical decisions based on some degree of consultation with their physician and that race influences a patient's perception of the quality and quantity of information gathered from the physician consultation. In particular, patients perceive better communication with and support from physicians of the same race.

Led by Howard S. Gordon, M.D. of the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, researchers investigated how race influenced doctor-patient communication in the setting of patients with lung cancer and suspicious lung lesions. The investigators reviewed, transcribed, and analyzed audiotapes from 137 separate doctor-patient consultations.

They found that the degree of patient engagement with the physician impacted the frequency of information provided by physicians but ra
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