Native Americans have significant cancer treatment concerns

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A Mayo Clinic oncologist is calling for culturally specific education and treatment strategies.

Native American patients with cancer tend to have significant concerns about radiation therapy that are not being addressed adequately, according to a collaborative study by researchers at Mayo Clinic in Arizona and the Phoenix Indian Medical Center.

Fifty Native American, American Indian and Alaska Native patients undergoing radiation at Phoenix Indian Medical Center were surveyed about their attitudes and concerns about their treatment. The patients expressed concern about the side effects of radiation therapy, with particular concerns about cost, transportation to and from the treatment center, and insurance compatibility.

Photo of Samir H. Patel, M.D.
Samir H. Patel, M.D.

Samir H. Patel, M.D., a radiation oncologist at Mayo Clinic in Arizona and the study's lead author, said that the results are a reminder that radiation oncologists need to be mindful of patient concerns. Native Americans have the worst five-year cancer survival rate of all racial groups in the United States, he noted.

"We sought to better understand Native American views toward radiation therapy in this study in hopes of developing improved interventions aimed at garnering better acceptance of radiation therapy," Dr. Patel said.

Culturally specific education and adjustments in scheduled doses of radiation therapy are two strategies that could increase acceptance among Native American patients, he said.

Findings from the study were presented at the American Society for Radiation Oncology annual meeting in September 2019 in Chicago.


This article was originally published in Forefront, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center's online magazine, which ceased publication in December 2020.