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Cancer Care and Access to Health Equity


Non-communicable diseases such as cancer contribute to increased morbidity and mortality rates. Globally, the mortality rates associated with cancer account for many disease-related deaths. Therefore, there is a need for interventions and strategies to address healthcare inequities and ensure equitable access to health for all populations. Currently, several advancements in cancer screening and treatment increase cancer survival rates. However, many cancer patients lack access to treatments due to disparities in healthcare, such as socioeconomic status and race (Chavarri-Guerra et al., 2019). Moreover, cancer treatment is an expensive procedure that incurs extreme financial distress on patients and caregivers, limiting access to health (dos-Santos-Silva et al., 2022). Nevertheless, with the help of patient navigators, cancer patients can access health care options, from preventive measures to treatment options. It is imperative to eradicate health inequities that hinder access to health to reduce cancer mortality rates.

Main Body

Cancer warrants specialized treatment and care to limit the disease’s spread and ensure the patient recovers. Therefore, cancer treatment impacts individuals’ socioeconomic status in several ways (Tabuchi, 2022). More so, cancer treatment advancements are expensive but vital for patient health. Despite universal health care programs that offer equal access to care, there is still unequal economic distribution among patients, which shapes their treatment options and economic impact. For instance, individuals from high-income areas can afford advanced cancer treatments such as targeted therapy and photodynamic therapy. In contrast, low and middle-income individuals lack the opportunities to afford such advanced healthcare.

Cancer patients in low and middle-income societies record increased financial distress and poverty levels. The cancer treatment methods are expensive and leave individuals without money or savings after treatment ends. Thus, there are increased mortality rates in low and middle-income areas because people cannot afford cancer treatment. However, high-income individuals do not feel the financial strain of cancer treatment and can afford various treatment options. For instance, Filipe et al. (2021) note that high socioeconomic status increases breast cancer patients’ chances of breast-conserving therapy, while individuals from low-income states resort to standard surgeries and mastectomies.

In addition, an individual’s socioeconomic status impacts cancer treatment, and cancer treatment affects socioeconomic status. Cancer patients and caregivers use high out-of-pocket funds for medical fees such as surgery and radiotherapy (Alzehr et al., 2022). Cancer treatment strips families of life savings and other funds, leaving them impoverished. Moreover, cancer patients cannot work, which lowers household income and wealth. For example, when one family member- the patient- does not contribute to household income, the money gained from the working family member is used to cater to the family’s needs. The funds may not be enough to cater to family and patient needs leading to debts and subsequent poverty.

Disparities exist in healthcare systems, hindering patients’ access to care. Social, environmental, and economic factors contribute to disparities in care, disadvantaging several individuals (National Cancer Institute, 2022). Disparities in the cancer care system include socioeconomic status, race, rural residence, and resource disparity. Resource disparity is one of the significant barriers to health care in healthcare organizations. Healthcare organizations lack trained and skilled personnel to treat cancer (dos-Santos-Silva et al., 2022). Moreover, due to few trained surgeons, oncologists, and radiologists dealing with cancer, human resource gaps lead to an increased workload, leaving room for errors. Therefore, when few professionals treat cancer, patients cannot receive standard care.

Race and ethnic differences are significant disparities in cancer care and treatment. For instance, African Americans, Asians, and Aboriginal people record higher mortality rates than their white counterparts due to diagnosis and treatment delays. Tong et al. (2022) argue that there are lower cancer screening rates in African American and Asian people, contributing to high death rates. The delayed screening may be due to stigma, racism, and discrimination because of racial differences. Similarly, socioeconomic disparities encompass education, income, and health insurance factors, which impact access to health care. Individuals with low education and low-income areas are at higher risk of cancer death because they lack access to health, health insurance, and knowledge on cancer treatment. On the other hand, high-income persons are aware of cancer symptoms and conduct regular screening to detect cancer. For instance, women of high socioeconomic status record a high incidence of breast cancer due to frequent mammography screening (Tabuchi, 2020). Early cancer detection increases the probability of survival, disadvantaging individuals from low socioeconomic status.

Patient navigation is a significant component of supportive cancer care (Carter et al., 2018). Navigators communicate with patients, aid them in accessing health insurance and facilitate access to health care. Given the numerous disparities that hinder access to care, patient navigators play a critical role in supporting patients to overcome barriers and disparities in service (Budda et al., 2022). Moreover, they educate patients, identify individual needs, identify barriers to healthcare, and advocate for screening. Therefore, there is a need for a model that can aid patient navigation through the health care system.

The Health Care Access Barriers Model outlines a framework organization and analysis of modifiable healthcare access barriers related to healthcare disparities. The financial, cognitive, and structural factors make up the modifiable healthcare access barriers (George et al., 2018) that hinder individual access to healthcare. Healthcare providers can measure and modify these barriers to health care. For instance, lack of screening, treatment delays, and poor treatment contribute to outcomes such as increased mortality rates. Moreover, healthcare barriers help understand health disparities; for example, it aids in understanding why an individual would fail to undergo screening, which is essential for their health. Patient navigators can identify patient needs and motivations to help them access health care and treatment. Therefore, it is important to understand the modifiable barriers to developing interventions and strategies that aid patient access to the health care system.

Health equity refers to eradicating differences in healthcare access among people, highlighted by equal and fair opportunities to access health (Lambert et al., 2023). Healthcare providers and organizations strive to eliminate health inequities by developing programs and policies that allow equal access to health. However, cancer disparities persist despite developing and implementing strategies to address healthcare inequities (Patel et al., 2020). This shows that there are possibilities of future challenges in health equity among cancer patients that require immediate consideration.

Future challenges in health equity in cancer care include difficulty promoting health equity, challenges reducing cancer care disparities, structural barriers, and social and structural factors contributing to health inequity. Structural causes of health inequity include systemic racism and health policies (Lambert et al., 2023), which hinders health equity. Social determinants include discrimination and poverty, making it hard for patients to access equal health care. Similarly, structural barriers refer to gaps in policies, programs, and interventions to address healthcare inequity. This prompts the need for research, development, and implementation of policies and systems that guarantee healthcare equity.


Cancers such as breast, lung, and colon cancer contribute significantly to disease burden and increased death rates. Cancer patients face several barriers to healthcare, such as financial issues; they incur debts and economic issues that make it hard to access treatment. Increasing access to health care guarantees higher cancer survival rates and decreased mortality rates. Moreover, patient navigators play a critical role in cancer patients’ access to care. They guide patients through healthcare systems and help them overcome barriers to healthcare. Therefore, developing policies, plans, and programs that ensure equitable access to healthcare helps reduce mortality rates and financial burdens on cancer patients.


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