How Mistrust Affects Cancer Screening

Cancer screenings not utilized because of fear and mistrust

January 14, 2013 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

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(dailyRx News) Some people tend to have a problem with physicians and other healthcare providers. They don’t trust these professionals. As a result, many ignore cancer screenings.

A recent study finds that Hispanics are twice as likely as whites to fear and distrust healthcare professionals. There’s a widely held belief among Hispanics that they’ll be used as guinea pigs.

With this mindset, no wonder this minority has lower cancer screening rates. These findings illustrate the need for physicians to find ways to build trust and confidence with disadvantaged patients, particularly Hispanics.

"Don't be afraid - ask about cancer screenings."

Researchers at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida led a randomized telephone survey of more than 1,100 Hispanics, blacks and whites between the ages of 18 and 94. The individuals lived in New York, Baltimore, Maryland and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Cancer does impact people from different ethnic groups differently. For example, cancer-related deaths are highest among blacks. And Hispanics have higher incidence of and death rates from cervical cancer than other races. These two facts are tied to lower cancer screenings in these groups.

"The provider-patient relationship is an important factor in patients adhering to cancer screening recommendations," said study senior author B. Lee Green, PhD, senior member of the Health Outcomes and Behavior Program at Moffitt.

This study was looking to learn why cancer screenings are low among poor individuals and minorities. Here’s what they found out.

Compared to whites, Hispanics were almost two times more likely to say they feared being used as a “guinea pig.” Because of these feelings, they were less willing to take part in cancer screenings.

People who had not graduated from college were twice as likely as college graduates to say they were afraid they’d be embarrassed during a cancer screening.

dailyRx spoke to Dr. Green about his study. He told us, ““Good patient/provider communication is extremely important in building trust within that relationship. We cannot underestimate the importance of the quality of the interaction between the patient and the provider and how it impacts the overall quality of care,” Dr. Green said.

"Physicians and other healthcare providers must develop the skills to ensure that communication between them and the patient is clear,” said Dr. Green.

The study authors wrote, "Our results indicate that racial, ethnic and educational discrepancies exist regarding fears and mistrust. Results also indicate areas where health professionals can improve interactions with patients, particularly among Hispanics and those with lower educational attainment."

This study was published recently in the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved. The work was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

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Review Date: 
January 12, 2013
Last Updated:
January 15, 2013