Empowering Minority Cancer Patients: Tips for Advocacy and Support

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By Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

Newswise — New Brunswick, N.J., April 1, 2024 – Cancer is a disease that can impact anyone, but it does not impact everyone equally. According to the American Cancer Society, Black and other racial and ethnic minority groups, low income, underinsured, or uninsured individuals as well as those living in rural areas, often face greater obstacles to preventing, treating and surviving cancer. Mariam F. Eskander, MD, MPH, surgical oncologist in the Gastrointestinal Oncology Program at Rutgers Institute of New Jersey, offers insight and tips for minority individuals navigating a cancer diagnosis and how we can all work together to mitigate cancer disparities.

*Choose a doctor you trust. You and your provider will be making lots of decisions together, so it is important that you find someone who listens to you and understands what is important to you.

Actively participate in treatment decision-making. Discuss your preferences, concerns, and goals with your cancer care team and advocate for personalized care that takes into account your cultural beliefs, values, and preferences.

Advocate for your care.  Educate yourself about your cancer diagnosis, treatment options, and potential side effects by asking questions and seeking information from reliable sources. You can assert your rights as a patient by asking for language assistance if needed or requesting accommodations for cultural or religious practices during treatment.

**Ask about clinical trials. Clinical trials evaluate the efficacy, safety, and effectiveness of clinical treatments and devices, including drugs, operations, and behaviorial/lifestyle interventions, seeking to improve individual and community health. To account for the diverse lived experiences and exposures of various populations, clinical trials must be appropriately inclusive of racial and ethnic minority groups, which is why it is so important for people of all backgrounds to consider a clinical trial as a treatment option.

Ask for support. At Rutgers Cancer Institute, social workers, patient navigators and your treatment team can help you access services such as support groups where you can share your experiences, ask questions, and receive encouragement from others who understand your cultural and linguistic background.

We can all work to create change. April is National Minority Health Month and brings awareness to health gaps in underserved communities. Take this opportunity to educate yourself and help spread awareness about minority health and cancer disparities. You can help your community make cancer prevention and screening a priority and raise awareness about cancer research. Encourage neighbors, friends and family members to make lifestyle changes, get screened, and even offer them a ride to their appointment.

*Click the link to watch UMT’s YouTube interview with Internal Medicine Specialist Dr. Herbert Bazron, M.D., who offers practical advice to find the best doctor for your needs and why finding the right doctor is crucial to healthy outcomes for African American patients.

**Click the link to watch UMT’s YouTube interview with Denise Bronner, Ph.D., Janssen Pharmaceutical Director of Diversity and Inclusion in Clinical Trials, to discuss racial disparities in clinical trial recruitment and participation and what’s happening now to increase education and opportunities for Black and POC participation in all phases of clinical trials.

Learn more about how Rutgers Cancer Institute and RWJBarnabas Health, the state’s leading cancer program and only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center and RWJBarnabas Health are committed to diversity and inclusivity in clinical trial research:https://www.cinj.org/clinical-trials/commitment-diversity-and-inclusivity-cancer-clinical-trials.

The Cancer Health Equity Center of Excellence at Rutgers Cancer Institute serves as a catalyst for training and education, research, community engagement, and public policy advocacy surrounding cancer health equity in New Jersey. Learn more: https://www.cinj.org/outreach/cancer-health-equity-center-excellence.

Image: DC Studio/freepik