Closing the divide: Diverse populations and cancer survivorship


  • Presented at Cancer Survivorship: Resilience Across the Lifespan, Washington, DC, June 2–4, 2002.


Currently, there is a “divide” between cancer survivorship initiatives and minority participation. The level of participation is nearly nonexistent in many cancer support and control initiatives. Cancer survivorship resources that facilitate access to treatment, psychosocial interventions, clinical trials, and research are key components to eliminating this divide. Differences in cancer results among minority populations are caused by several factors, including biologic reactions to environmental activities, socioeconomic status, perceived beliefs and notions of medical professionals, a lack of resources to participate in cancer support groups, and having personal contact with cancer survivors. Health professionals, advocates, and researchers hold the key to opening more opportunities for the improvement of cancer survivorship among minorities. The belief that “one size fits all” is unrealistic. These beliefs can influence participation in innovative clinical trials, decisions about treatment, emotional responses, and social support relationships. To help ensure participation in these programs, researchers and health workers must understand the role of social and psychosocial implications and results of the assessment, strategies, and sustainability that must be included in the development stage of any cancer support and survivorship initiatives. For this article, the authors examined mechanisms that can be used by cancer-control researchers and program staff to limit the divide between cancer survivorship initiatives and minority participation. They identified three strategies that must be used to address this divide effectively: the inclusion of minorities in clinical trials, intervention studies, treatment, and research programs; the development of culturally sensitive environments; and the ability to sustain minority participation. In summary, cancer survivorship includes many components that are developed individually and collectively to formulate sound strategies for including minorities in cancer-control initiatives. These programs should go beyond basic support groups and should include research studies, clinical trials, and alternative treatments for increasing cancer survival rates and quality of life among minorities. The divide can be addressed only through a proactive initiative that brings cancer survivorship initiatives and minority communities together in full partnership. Cancer 2005. © 2005 American Cancer Society.