Researchers aren’t sure why it is, but African Americans and other minorities are more likely to spend their life savings to fight cancer.
Blacks and other minorities with cancer are more likely than whites to say they would spend everything they have on aggressive treatments that might prolong their lives, a study found. … About 80 percent of blacks said they were willing to use up all their money to extend their lives, compared with 72 percent of Asians, 69 percent of Hispanics and 54 percent of whites.
Researchers don’t know why this is so and didn’t ask, but some think it may reflect differences in beliefs about miracles, distrust of doctors among minorities, and a misunderstanding of just how ugly and painful end-of-life care can be.
The findings, published online Tuesday by the journal Cancer, were based on telephone surveys of more than 4,100 people newly diagnosed with lung and colon cancer. About 17 percent of the colon cancer patients and 31 percent of the lung cancer patients were in the most advanced stages of their disease. … The cost of cancer care has soared in recent years, with many treatments priced at $100,000 or more sometimes adding only a few months of life.
Final days under aggressive treatment can be grim. Patients might have tubes in the nose and down the throat and be unable to eat or talk. They may be in pain or barely coherent.
More at Medscape:
Although the data, culled from a telephone-based surveillance study, did not allow for an in-depth analysis of the reasons underlying end-of-life choices, religious beliefs appeared to play an important role. The authors found that patients who said that their life expectancy “was in God’s hands” were more willing to deplete their savings.
A clinician who studies end-of-life care but was not involved in this study told Medscape Medical News that data from other studies strongly support the findings.
“In our research, we have found that religious views powerfully influence preferences for life-prolonging therapies. Black, more than white, patients in our studies claim that they consider it their duty to ‘keep the faith’ and hang on as long as possible for divine intervention — a miracle that will save them,” Holly G. Prigerson, PhD, director of the Center for Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care Research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts, wrote in an email Medscape Medical News.
“Fears of being denied life-saving medical treatments, as occurred in Tuskegee, have been expressed by black patients as motivating the pursuit of aggressive care near death. It appears that cultural beliefs factor heavily into racial disparities in preferences for life-prolonging care,” Dr. Prigerson added. (In the notorious experiment conducted in Tuskegee, Alabama, 399 black men with late-stage syphilis were observed but never treated.)