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Ethnic minorities tend to have worse outcomes in most areas of cancer care, and survivorship is no exception, researchers say. Kimlin Ashing-Giwa, PhD, professor and director of the Center of Community Alliance for Research and Education (CCARE) at City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, California, has researched breast and cervical cancer outcomes among women of color.

There's a necessity for advocates from communities of color, people who are trained to deal with policy issues to advance our collaborative agenda.—KimIin Ashing-Giwa, PhD

She found that Latina survivors had some of the poorest psychological outcomes—with more suffering from depression—and that African American women had greater morbidities than their white counterparts.

“The research suggests that it's not ethnic group membership that causes these outcomes but burdens such as limited English proficiency, later-stage diagnosis, less access to care, lower incomes, and even approach to illness, such as relying on family advice before seeking care,” she notes.

Because most women of color are not treated at comprehensive cancer centers,theydo not have accessto the more extensive survivorship programs. As a result ethnic community groups have developed to address the need, she says. These groups support cancer patients at all stages, from diagnosis to palliative care and survivorship.

“These are very grassroots groups that provide free supportive care services,” Dr Ashing-Giwa says. “Some patients benefit from a peer-based model rather than a medical/professional model.” Such groups can be empowering for members and also can provide spiritual support. Many have contacts at cancer centers when there is a need to tap into various professional resources.

Survivorship research is still slow to address the specific needs of these populations, and scientists are still determining the best methods to detect and prevent some of these problems. “There's a necessity for advocates from communities of color, people who are trained to deal with policy issues to advance our collaborative agenda,” Dr Ashing-Giwa adds.