Black Americans' beliefs may hamper lung cancer prevention and care


Christopher Lathan, MD, MPHChristopher Lathan, MD, MPH 

Blacks in the United States are less certain than whites about recommendations to prevent lung cancer and are more fearful of having symptoms evaluated — beliefs that may keep them from seeking timely treatment for the disease, researchers from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute reported at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's annual meeting in Chicago.

Blacks were also more likely to expect lung cancer to cause more symptoms prior to a diagnosis than were whites, said Christopher Lathan, MD, MPH, of Dana-Farber's Center for Outcomes and Policy Research and the study's lead author.

"These responses suggest that blacks may have a higher degree of fatalism about lung cancer," Lathan said, "and may contribute to black patients being diagnosed with more advanced stages of the disease because they have avoided going to the doctor or waited until symptoms appeared."

The researchers analyzed data from the 2005 HINTS survey in which 1,872 adults answered questions about lung cancer. While blacks and white patients shared many of the same beliefs, the survey data showed blacks were more likely to:

  • Agree that it is hard to know which recommendations about lung cancer prevention to follow;
  • Avoid having an evaluation for lung cancer out of fear of being diagnosed with the disease; and
  • Believe that a person with lung cancer would have pain or other symptoms before getting a cancer diagnosis.

From these findings, Lathan and his colleagues concluded that "more attention should be paid to what people think about lung cancer, and we should think about ways to change misperceptions." The study's other authors are Cassandra A. Okechukwu of Dana-Farber, Bettina Drake, PhD, and Gary Bennett, PhD, of Dana-Farber and Harvard School of Public Health.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (www.dana-farber.org) is a principal teaching affiliate of the Harvard Medical School and is among the leading cancer research and care centers in the United States. It is a founding member of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC), designated a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute.

  • Email
  • Print
  • Share
  • Text
Highlight Glossary Terms
  • Media Contacts

    • For all inquiries, call 617-632-4090 and ask to speak to a member of the media team. Please direct emails to media@dfci.harvard.edu.