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Researcher Investigates Disparities in Doctor-Patient Information Exchange During Clinical Trial Offers

ATLANTA, Nov. 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Recent research from the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, MI, suggests black cancer patients are less likely than white cancer patients to bring a companion with them to physician appointments, leading to possible racial disparities in informed decision-making about cancer treatment and participation in clinical trials.

This research further examines cancer patient question-asking and the role of companions during physician visits. In the past, it has been shown that patients who bring a companion with them to physician visits receive more information than those who don't.

Susan Eggly, Ph.D., assistant professor of internal medicine and member of the Communication and Behavioral Oncology program at Karmanos, presented the findings at the American Association for Cancer Research's The Science of Cancer Health Disparities conference this week in Atlanta, GA.

Nationally, clinical trials accrue disproportionately low rates of minority patients. Dr. Eggly and researchers at Karmanos believe the low rate of accrual may partially be influenced by physician-patient communication during the clinical interactions in which trials are offered.

The study showed that black and white patients both asked more questions during visits to the doctor that included an offer of a clinical trial than visits that included only standard treatment options. However, in both types of visits, black patients asked fewer questions and less frequently had a companion present to assist them in asking questions. Because increased questioning has been associated with positive patient outcomes, these findings may reveal some causes of racial health disparities, especially with regard to how much information patients get about treatment and other options for care.

"Our program is particularly interested in the way patients and companions ask questions because question-asking is associated with the amount of information patients receive and their ability to make informed treatment decisions," said Dr. Eggly. "There are so many subtleties when looking at health disparities. We know health disparities exist, and researchers in our program believe some of the risk could come from clinical communication. If we can identify the various subtleties in communication that contribute to these disparities, we can help level the playing field in terms of cancer care."

Based in midtown Detroit, the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute is committed to a future free of cancer. The Institute is one of 39 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. Caring for more than 6,000 new patients annually on a budget of $216 million, conducting more than 700 cancer-specific scientific investigation programs and clinical trials, the Karmanos Cancer Institute is among the nation's best cancer centers. Through the commitment of 1,000 staff, including nearly 300 faculty members, and supported by thousands of volunteer and financial donors, the Institute strives to prevent, detect and eradicate all forms of cancer. John C. Ruckdeschel, M.D. is the Institute's president and CEO.

SOURCE Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute
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