Equitable access to cancer services: A review of barriers to quality care

Cancer. 1999 Dec 1;86(11):2378-90.


Background: Barriers to cancer care have been documented in nearly all settings and populations; such barriers represent potentially avoidable morbidity or mortality. A conceptual framework was used to describe patient, provider, and system barriers to cancer services.

Methods: A review of the English language literature on cancer care from 1980-1998 was conducted; key research was summarized for each domain in the conceptual model.

Results: Key patient barriers are related to old age, minority race, and low socioeconomic class; the common pathways by which these sociodemographic factors appear to mediate cancer outcomes include social class and race-related or class-related attitudes. Providers are often ill-prepared to communicate the complexities of cancer care to their diverse patient populations; constraints of the medical care system also can impede the delivery of care. To the authors' knowledge the impact of the rapid growth in managed care organizations (MCOs) on access to care has yet to be evaluated fully. Although MCOs historically have provided high levels of cancer screening in healthy populations, to the authors' knowledge there are fewer data regarding outcomes for elderly and poor populations and for treatment services.

Conclusions: Additional research is needed to develop and test interventions to overcome barriers to care and evaluate the impact of the growth of managed care on access to cancer care for diverse populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Communication Barriers
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Health Services for the Aged
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Managed Care Programs / trends*
  • Mass Screening
  • Middle Aged
  • Minority Groups
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Quality of Health Care*
  • Social Class