Hispanic Patients with Limited Health Literacy Face Barriers to Cancer Screening
A recent study conducted by the Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University found that Hispanic patients have mixed knowledge of cancer screening guidelines despite largely complying with screening adherence. The study highlights the importance of cancer education and prevention programs targeting high-risk groups, particularly Hispanics who face significant disparities in cancer screening and care. The study’s findings could guide future research and public health outreach to promote cancer screening, early diagnosis, and treatment.
The Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University recently conducted a study on cancer health literacy that aimed to understand the impact of health literacy on cancer-related behaviors of Hispanic patients. The study focused on recent cancer screening patterns, knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors among 980 Hispanic adults in Indiana, providing insights for tailored screening messaging and prevention strategies. The study findings showed that most surveyed Hispanics lacked accurate knowledge about the age to begin cancer screenings. Only 4 percent of participants correctly identified the age for lung cancer screening adherence, while only 18 percent correctly identified the age for breast cancer screening adherence. Interestingly, these low rates persisted across several traditional social determinants of health, including nationality, rurality, and income, which typically impact health literacy but did not in this case.
The study also found that societal factors impacted cancer beliefs, with Hispanics with higher income and education more likely to believe they were at risk of developing cancer and to worry about the disease. 78 percent of Hispanics with an income higher than $75,000 reported being worried about cancer, while 29 percent of patients with lower income also expressed concern.
When it comes to cancer statements like “You cannot cut your cancer risk much” and “When I think about cancer, I think about death,” lower-income people are more inclined to agree. I would prefer not to know my cancer risk was a statement that was more frequently agreed upon by lower-income and less-educated groups. The study discovered a connection between speaking predominantly Spanish and having a reduced likelihood of adhering.
The researchers said they concentrated on studying diversity and inclusion to ensure valid results. Researchers conducted a cross-sectional survey from August to October 2021 targeting Indiana-based Hispanic adults aged 18 and older who could read/write English or Spanish. Researchers employed TV, social media, and the Facebook sites of Spanish community organizations to find volunteers. The survey examined knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors related to cancer screening and prevention.
The study provided insights for tailored screening messaging and prevention strategies to reach high-risk groups, such as Hispanics, to reduce the burden of cancer. The study found that although researchers linked education levels to greater screening knowledge, it did not correlate with adherence to screening guidelines, except for cervical cancer. Surprisingly, lower-income individuals reported higher screening adherence rates, with 77 percent of lower-income Hispanics receiving up-to-date colorectal screening, 61 percent for breast cancer, and 47 percent for cervical cancer. The study also found that younger age and urban residency were linked with higher colorectal cancer screening adherence odds.
The study highlights the importance of cancer education and prevention programs targeting Hispanic patients to promote cancer screening, early diagnosis, and treatment. It is crucial to improve health literacy among Hispanics and eliminate barriers to timely cancer screenings. The study findings could help guide future research and public health outreach targeting high-risk groups, especially Hispanics, who face significant disparities in cancer screening and care.