Purpose Despite national statistics that indicate a lower incidence of breast carcinoma among African American women than Caucasian women, the mortality rate for African American women is higher. Data regarding these differences in mortality and incidence can only be obtained through inclusion of women of ethnic groups on large national clinical trials. Presently, fewer minorities enrol in clinical trials than Caucasian women. Some barriers to minority participation in clinical trials are common to all areas of the United States, whereas some factors are unique to specific geographic areas. This study was designed to determine what specific factors, such as illiteracy, impact minority enrolment onto clinical trials in rural eastern North Carolina.
Methods All newly diagnosed breast cancer patients at our center were asked to participate in a pilot questionnaire study from August to October 2006. Information requested included distance to travel for therapy, education, income, and prior knowledge of cancer or clinical trials.
Results Education levels, income levels, regular health care evaluations, and insurance coverage differed between the minority and nonminority participants. Religious affiliation did not differ between these groups. Eighty-three percent of Caucasian women recorded knowing what a clinical trial was and could provide a correct description of a clinical study; 30% of minority women knew the accurate definition of a clinical trial. No minority patients reported knowing someone who had participated in a clinical trial, whereas 17% of Caucasian women did. Forty percent of minority participants knew individuals who had been treated for cancer versus 50% of Caucasians. Sixty-seven percent of Caucasian women would participate in a clinical trial; 40% of minority women reported that they would participate.
Conclusions There is a discrepancy between the economic and education levels of our minority and nonminority breast cancer patients in eastern North Carolina. This corresponds with uninsured patients and women who do not have the ability to obtain regular medical care. Additionally, personal experience with cancer treatments is different between the groups. A larger study is needed to gather more information on how to further define efforts for accrual to clinical trials.
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