What is the Cancer Care Gap?
Even if you live in a wealthy country like the UK where access to healthcare is readily available and free at the point of access, there is still a care gap in cancer treatment and outlooks. This is known as inequity. Inequality and inequity are different, with inequality referring to resource distribution unevenness, whereas inequity refers to differences that are avoidable yet unjust.
Both inequity and inequality contribute to the cancer care gap. An example of inequity could be that two people can live in the same country and have the same diagnosis, yet they will experience a different outcome based on their race, gender, sexual orientation, income, and disability. This is because there are different barriers that may appear subtle or even unidentifiable, but ultimately they are there and affect care outcomes. A prime example of this is that in the USA, 71% of white women survive a cervical cancer diagnosis for five years, but only 58% of black women do.
Inequality means that resources are unfairly distributed, so people are not on a level playing field and their care outcomes are vastly different as a result. This is easier to identify in low- and middle-income countries, especially when compared to high-income countries. For example, the survival rate for childhood cancer in high-income countries is 80%, but in low-income countries, it’s just 20%. This is due to a disparity in access to healthcare, and inequity also plays a role.
The aim of the 2022 World Cancer Day campaign is to close the care gap, and there are several ways this can be done.
Closing the Cancer Care Gap
There are many different obstacles that need to be tackled in order to try and fulfil this year’s World Cancer Day goal. One of the first steps we can take is to recognise the disparity of access to cancer care, treatment, and prevention. Even if you live in the UK and have access to universal healthcare, there are still barriers in place. For example, those in rural areas may have to travel hours to get to a treatment centre, and treatments can differ from place to place. This is known as the postcode lottery.
We can also take steps to eradicate discrimination against healthcare professionals. This means changing attitudes towards transgender and intersex people who tend to experience hostility and receive poorer care. It also means recognising that racism plays a role in healthcare and access to treatment, as well as gender-based discrimination, and age.
Another way we can help to close the care gap is to provide education around cancer awareness and ensure it’s accessible to everyone. The more people are educated on what cancer is, how it forms, risk factors that contribute to the likelihood of developing cancer, signs and symptoms, and treatment options, the more we can reduce preventative cases and better people’s chances of a cure through early detection.
It’s important to tackle both inequality and inequity because both of these affect outcomes. For example, you might live in an area where resource access is equal, but this does not mean people won’t face barriers. Different people need different assistance. For example, a person who has worked with asbestos may be at a higher risk of developing cancer than a pilot, so even if they both have equal access to healthcare, their needs are different. This can be tackled through legislation and changes to certain healthcare programmes.
Learn More About World Cancer Day
We are proud to be supporting World Cancer Day and playing a role in closing the cancer care gap, and we implore you to do the same. Whether you take the time to listen to cancer patients about their journey, or if you work to educate more people about cancer, you’ll be making a difference. For more information, search social media for the #WorldCancerDay and #CloseTheCareGap tags. Additionally, more information can be found on the official World Cancer Day website.
At the Rutherford, we will continue to provide high-quality care to all our patients, as well as offering impartial and thorough support to those who need it, including families. You can learn more about patient treatment and care from Rutherford Cancer Centres here.