According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), cancer health disparities are adverse differences between certain population groups in cancer measures, such as: incidence (new cases), prevalence (all existing cases), morbidity (cancer-related health complications), mortality (deaths), survivorship and quality of life after cancer treatment, burden of cancer or related health conditions, screening rates and stage at diagnosis.
Populations of focus may be characterized by race, ethnicity, disability, gender and sexual identity, geographic location, income, education and other characteristics. Generally, people who are from low socioeconomic backgrounds (poor, lack health insurance and have limited or no access to effective health care) often bear a greater burden of disease than the general U.S. population, according to the NCI.
Underrepresented Minority populations are defined as African Americans (Black), American Indians/Alaska Natives and Latinos, who have historically comprised a minority of the U.S. population.
Cancer disparities in Massey’s catchment area
Significant cancer disparities exist within VCU Massey Cancer Center’s catchment area. A catchment area, as defined by the National Cancer Institute, is the geographic area and population from which a cancer center draws patients. Defining a catchment area allows a cancer center to describe its primary patient population and assess how well it meets the needs of cancer patients within the catchment area.
VCU Massey Cancer Center has a catchment area of 54 counties covering central and eastern Virginia, according to 2009-2011 cancer registry data. Collectively, 92 percent of patients diagnosed at Massey between 2009 and 2011 resided within this area. On average, the patients diagnosed at Massey, in comparison to those diagnosed elsewhere, were more likely to be African American, Hispanic, younger, without health insurance or receiving Medicaid. Among cancer patients living within the Massey catchment area, patients diagnosed at Massey were more likely to be minority, female, uninsured or on Medicaid. Compared with men, women had statistically significantly higher odds of being diagnosed at Massey. Compared with whites, black cancer patients had statistically significantly greater odds of being diagnosed at Massey. In addition, other non-white race cancer patients had statistically significantly greater odds of being diagnosed at Massey when compared with whites.
Also, VCU Massey Cancer Center is part of the VCU Health System “Safety-Net Hospital,” which means that it provides a significant level of care to low-income, uninsured and vulnerable populations.
Specifically, in 2016:
−74% of Massey’s patients were from vulnerable populations
−75% of Massey’s vulnerable patients were from minority populations, chiefly African American
–There are traditionally low rates of participation of minorities in clinical trials, and 32 percent lower for patients with annual family income less than $50,000
Addressing disparities in Massey’s catchment area
VCU Massey Cancer Center offers programming within our catchment area, and due to strong community partnerships, we have been able to leverage programming, services and research beyond this defined area and extend them to Danville and other areas.